When audience members heard that Leila Josefowicz wasn’t going to perform the Alban Berg Violin Concerto, Sunday at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, they were disappointed — but not for long.
Instead they were treated to an exhilarating and deeply felt performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto by Shannon Lee. And they were so moved that they rewarded her with not one but two standing ovations, one after the first movement and the other and the end. (She received a similar response at Saturday’s performance with the VSO at Burlington’s Flynn Center.)
When Music Director Jaime Laredo was faced with replacing Josefowicz early last week, he turned to one of his star graduate students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. But Lee’s was hardly a youthful performance. Rather, she revealed her refined virtuosity and deep musicianship.
From her opening phrases in the Allegro moderato, it was clear that this was going to be a very personal interpretation. With a heartfelt expressiveness and subtle rhythmic manipulation she imbued the lines with an irresistible sweetness before delivering the abject virtuosity with precision and elegance. Although personal, she never veered from Tchaikovsky’s score.
Without apology, Lee almost “sang” the tender Canzonetta: Andante with a pure sentimentality. And with the final Allegro vivacissimo, it was “off to the races” with Lee’s elegant bravura. The VSO, conducted by Laredo, was with Lee all the way — it was like chamber music.
Lee rewarded her second standing ovation with a virtuosic performance of Baroque composer Pietro Locatelli’s Capriccio No. 23, “The Harmonic Labyrinth.”
Sunday’s program opened on a very different note, with the beloved “Prelude and Liebestod” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde.” This is complex and densely orchestrated music and Laredo and the VSO delivered it with a clarity that revealed its power and deep beauty
The program closed with Felix Mendelssohn’s youthful Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 107, “Reformation,” youthful because it was only the second he wrote. (Mendelssohn five symphonies are numbered in the order of publication rather than composition.) Mendelssohn is a favorite of Laredo’s, in part responsible for this effervescent performance.
Laredo is leaving the VSO at the next season, but this concert makes it clear that he has created a fine performing instrument, one that Vermont can be proud of.