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Multer on Mendelssohn: In pursuit of perfection

Jeff Multer has the toughest job in town this weekend.

Why? He wants to craft perfection on something already flawless. In three concerts at the Mahaffey Theater, TFO’s concertmaster tackles Felix Mendelssohn’s evergreen Violin Concerto, a favorite of soloists and audiences ever since its first performance more than 175 years ago. With such a precious work of art, expectations are running high. So, he can’t just fiddle around.

“It’s incredibly exacting and exposed and difficult to play,’’ Multer says. “And everyone knows every note, so a performance has to be perfect.’’

The concerto is, arguably, Mendelssohn’s finest work, which says a lot considering the quality of so many of his chamber and orchestral creations. It belongs among the “big five’’ violin concertos – along with Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Bruch – although Mendelssohn’s is far more compact and intimate. But unlike the others, which begin with lengthy orchestral intros, Mendelssohn puts the soloist out front from the get-go.

“It starts immediately with the violin playing the main tune,’’ Multer adds. “It’s almost like a rhapsody.’’

Famed for its melody and the seamless flow of its three movements, the concerto stands as a model of restrained romanticism. Moods of pathos, melancholy and exuberance drive the music forward in the opening allegro, and a lone bassoon leads the listener into a reserved slow section. A brief interlude introduces the finale, a puckish movement full of sparkle and bravado, the violin zipping off its honey-like lines as the orchestra offers alert support from behind.

Multer says he never tires of hearing or playing it.

“Every time you go back to it there’s something you didn’t see before,’’ he says. “Looking at it from a fresh standpoint, there’s all this stuff I didn’t realize.’’

This weekend’s Masterworks program includes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli and Florence B. Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, under the baton of Music Director Michael Francis.

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