The RSNO and conductor Kristiina Poska delivered a thrilling performance of music by Copland, Price and Sibelius, featuring the stunning violinist Rachel Barton Pine.
Copland’s Appalachian Spring: a luminous opener
The concert opened with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, a suite of music inspired by the American frontier. Poska led the orchestra with a clear vision and a crisp rhythm, creating a vivid atmosphere of pastoral beauty and folk dance. The soloists, especially flautist Katherine Bryan and clarinettist Yann Ghiro, played with expressive nuance and charm.
Price’s Second Violin Concerto: a rediscovered gem
The highlight of the concert was the Second Violin Concerto by Florence Price, an African-American composer whose music was largely ignored during her lifetime. The concerto is a delightful mix of styles and influences, from classical to jazz, from circus to Hollywood. The solo part is extremely challenging, requiring virtuosic technique and musicality. Rachel Barton Pine, a passionate advocate for Price’s music, rose to the occasion with astonishing skill and charisma. She played with brilliant clarity, infectious energy and captivating emotion. Her encore, a solo-violin arrangement of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz by Nathan Milstein, was equally impressive and dazzling.
Sibelius’s First Symphony: a powerful finale
The concert ended with Sibelius’s First Symphony, a work of dramatic contrasts and Nordic intensity. Poska drove the symphony with a relentless momentum, highlighting its rich orchestration and sweeping melodies. The orchestra responded with commitment and precision, creating a sound that was both warm and edgy. The symphony culminated in a thrilling climax that left the audience breathless.