Under the baton of the experienced Chilean maestro and Associate Principal Conductor Francisco Rettig, the fourth concert of the Concepción Symphony season was a ‘crescendo’ of emotions. A fervent performance of Alfonso Leng’s romantic ‘Andante for strings’ became the moving prelude to violinist Freddy Varela’s reunion with his home town’s audience and with the orchestra where he served as concertmaster from 2010 to 2016.

The current concertmaster in the Argentinian Teatro Colón and Camerata Bariloche replaced Kenneth Renshaw, the announced young soloist who had to cancel due to force majeur just a few days before the concert. Freddy Varela handled Beethoven’s Violin Concerto will all the neatness, expressivity and beauty of sound that this transparent score demands, and with all the brilliance and virtuosity required by the traditional cadenzas provided by Kreisler. Then, he responded to his colleagues and audience’s warm ovation with a magic performance of the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita No. 2, ending in a ‘pianissimo’ whose serene intimacy permeated every corner of theater.

The program’s second part was a reunion with Sibelius, a composer the Concepción Symphony has always performed with success. This rendition of his Second Symphony was no exception, with an impressive display of Sibelius’s magnificent palette of orchestral colors. A noteworthy contribution came from James Ackley, guest principal trumpet, who enhanced the power and brilliance of his section, and achieved an unusual silkiness in his short solos during the more intimate passages. Maestro Rettig chose flexible and sometimes extreme ‘tempi’, with slow overwhelming climaxes in the dramatic second movement. The vertiginous ‘Vivacissimo’ was perfect, and in the ‘Finale’ the orchestral sound reached an intensity and beauty absolutely unforgettable.