Concertmaster, Stradivarius ace concerto

Hearing Kiril Laskarov ace Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor with his musical mates from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center: Spectacular.

Hearing him ace it with the 1712 "Le Brun" Stradivarius under his chin: Priceless.

Laskarov, one of the orchestra's two concertmasters, had some tiny pitch issues in the concerto's first few notes; as he quickly became more comfortable physically and musically, the concerto really took off. The Strad, on loan from an anonymous donor, soared best in the music's upper registers.

Unlike too many performances, Laskarov's goal was not to overpower the piece, or to play it as fast as humanly possible (though he and conductor Philip Mann did take the third movement at a very sprightly "Allegro molto vivace" clip).

This was much more about giving Mendelssohn's notes their right and proper due, with just the right degree of sensitivity, nuance and value, while also not skimping on the pyrotechnics. Bravo.

After the ovation went on for what felt like hours, Laskarov supplied an encore: Tambourine by François-Joseph Gossec, born 22 years after the violin.

Mann opened the concert with possibly the grandest, jauntiest and rowdiest performance of Gioacchino Rossini's Overture to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) I've ever heard.

The second half of the concert opened with Black Bend by ASO Composer of the Year Dan Visconti, a surprisingly charming work in which the composer and the musicians morph more or less amorphous night sounds of nature into a blues band careening off the edge of a precipice.

Two years ago, when the orchestra was testing potential concert homes while Robinson Center Music Hall would be under reconstruction, they played Igor Stravinsky's 1919 Suite from his ballet The Firebird in preparation for a "run-out" concert. It was a knockout even in the dead-sounding space in the Statehouse Convention Center; it absolutely was Saturday night in the much more acoustically excellent Maumelle hall.

Laskarov, Visconti, Mann and the musicians reassemble at 3 p.m. today at the performing arts center, Maumelle High School, 100 Victory Lane, Maumelle. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 666-1761, Extension 100, or online at

Metro on 01/31/2016

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