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by Daniel Hathaway

JELEN-BRAULTScaled down for a Mozart symphony and concerto and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the Akron Symphony was lean and anything but mean on Saturday evening. The thirty-one players on the stage of E.J. Thomas Hall formed a tight, vibrant ensemble that responded like a high-performance sports car under the baton of Christopher Wilkins and the bow of Olivier Brault, and held bassoon soloist Todd Jelen in a warm embrace.

The highlight was a sensational performance of Vivaldi’s vividly pictorial quartet of violin concertos, for which, in a very smart and gracious move, Wilkins handed the conducting duties over to Brault. The Montréal violinist has dazzled Northeast Ohio audiences as concertmaster of Apollo’s Fire, but has rarely found himself in the position of having complete control over a performance.

Positioned in the middle of the string ensemble, Olivier Brault — always dashing and stylish — turned into a blur of kinetic energy, playing like a rock guitarist to his violin colleagues one moment, now swiveling around to communicate with the cellos and basses, then drawing himself in for intimate conversations with solo cellist Miles Richardson and harpsichordist Robert Mollard. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

JELEN-BRAULTA concerto is a normal and popular feature of symphony orchestra programs. On Saturday, January 11, Akron Symphony music director Christopher Wilkins will be offering two of them to the E.J. Thomas Hall audience. Wilkins and the ensemble will begin the evening with Mozart’s ingratiating Symphony No. 29 in A, then bring the ASO’s principal bassoonist, Todd Jelen, to the footlights for Mozart’s sole surviving bassoon concerto. The concert will conclude with Antonio Vivaldi’s popular quartet of violin concertos, The Four Seasons, with guest soloist Olivier Brault.

Brault is well-known to area audiences as the concertmaster for Cleveland’s baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, a position the Montréal-based violinist has held for the last four seasons while continuing to appear with such Canadian ensembles as Les Boréades de Montréal, Ensemble Caprice and La Bande Montréal as well as his own group, Sonate 1704.

He was appointed to Apollo’s Fire when artistic director Jeannette Sorrell felt the need to bring more continuity to the leadership of the orchestra’s strings after a period when the concertmaster’s duties had been shared around among several players. Read the rest of this entry »

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