When Korean virtuoso violinist In Mo Yang entered Genoa’s prestigious Paganini Competition in 2015, the jury had declined to award a first prize in almost a decade. That drought came to an end when Yang took the stage, and watching him play the monstrously difficult First Concerto by the legendary Paganini himself, it is easy to understand why the jury—led by Fabio Luisi, conducting Yang here—found him a deserving prizewinner. His otherworldly technique allows him to execute the most demanding passages—long legato runs spanning the full tonal range of the instrument, and extended double-stop figures that made Paganini’s audiences gasp in wonder—with apparent ease and great flair.
The program is rounded out by Brahms’s monumental First Symphony in C Minor. Brahms may have rankled at the description of this work, reportedly decades in the making, as “Beethoven’s Tenth,” but its place in the canon today is undeniable. Indeed, like Beethoven before him, Brahms was adept at turning symphonic grandeur toward great pathos, perhaps nowhere more effectively than in the fourth movement’s beloved Alphorn theme, played brilliantly here by the esteemed Danish National Symphony Orchestra.