Piotr Gajewski led the National Philharmonic in three tried-and-true (some say “worn-out”) symphonic staples on Saturday at Strathmore. But a fresh look at them won’t hurt. Felix Mendelssohn’s music, which occupied the evening’s first half, included his Hebrides Overture (“Fingal’s Cave”), Op. 26, and his Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, with diva violinist Sarah Chang.
Truly a renaissance man, Mendelssohn not only composed but also was a virtuoso pianist, demanding conductor, prodigious letter-writer (with a wit equal to that of German poet Heinrich Heine’s acerbic barbs). But it was Mendelssohn’s descriptive powers as an artist (he produced lyrical, finely detailed drawings and paintings) that surface in the composer’s programmatic “Hebrides Overture.” Gajewski captured Mendelssohn’s vision of roiling waves in the sea’s monstrous cavernous depths, conveying a scenario of motion in stasis — long swells of sustained harmonies in the strings and waves of rushing melodies, the brass serving as roaring tides crashing against the cave’s rocky walls.