BURLINGTON — The Vermont Symphony Orchestra introduced a compelling new violin concerto written for its excellent soloist to a Vermont audience Saturday at the Flynn Center. With its guest conductor, it also delivered Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony in “pastels,” and a delightful bonbon by Rossini. Throughout, the VSO players were in top form.
Composer and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer (b. 1971) was on hand for his concerto for violin and chamber orchestra, “Trouble,” which is said to be about vulnerability within today’s political world. Regardless, the six-movement work is a compelling journey in which the solo violin plays different roles, from soloist to texture to mood-setting accompaniment, in a relationship that borders on chamber music. Unusually, piano plays an important role in creating the work’s broad palette of colors.
Violinist Jennifer Koh, long familiar to VSO audiences, delivered a convincing and personal performance, no surprise as the work was written for her. The work was essentially musical storytelling, with a flowing narrative. Deeply touching was the introspective and plaintive second movement, “Normale,” while the agitation of the third, “For Vincent Chin,” was appropriately and beautifully unsettling. The traditional virtuosic violin solo in the final “Assembly” was particularly exciting.
Koh convincingly played her various roles, which demanded a wide variety of styles. There was some traditional lyricism that was particularly beautiful. The VSO, guest conducted by Vinay Parmeswaran, had its share of the complex colors, and matched Koh all the way. It was a rewarding and exciting performance.
Parmeswaran, a very competent conductor, effectively managed the details of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, “Pastorale,” and the VSO delivered. But in his tightly managed performance, Parmeswaran didn’t allow the music to breathe, nor did he explore Beethoven’s trademark contrasts. Although this is the mellowest of the composer’s nine symphonies, there is plenty of internal drama, even turbulence. Instead we got “pretty.”
Conversely, VSO enjoyed all the contrasts, extreme in fact, of Rossini’s Overture to “L’Italiani in Algeri.” Parmeswaran exacted the all-important details with great clarity, yet achieved the overarching dramatic narrative. It was a downright exciting and beautiful performance.