Review: Violinist Randall Goosby Performs with the LA Phil

April 2, 2023, 7:53 PM · Ahhh, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, so easy to play, such a pleasure to hear! During Thursday night's performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, violinist Randall Goosby made it pretty hard to believe that this was the violin concerto that was first rejected by its dedicatee Leopold Auer as "unplayable" and then denounced by critic Eduard Hanslick as "music that stinks to the ear."

Randall Goosby
Violinist Randall Goosby. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

The fact of the matter is that the famous piece is one of the more difficult ones in the repertoire, but Goosby, 27, navigated it with the kind of composure and ease that makes the music seem inevitable and its many tricks seem assuringly well-in-hand. Goosby has exceptional facility on the instrument, and he seemed to be greatly enjoying playing on the 1708 "Strauss" Stradivarius, which he received just a few months ago on loan from the Samsung Foundation of Culture in Korea.

The orchestra, under conductor Dalia Stasevska, sounded jubilant during its long interludes, accelerating forcefully into the cadenza, releasing Goosby to play in his own time. Starting with well-placed and well-played chords, he handled the cadenza with beautiful technique as well as some nice personal touches. Here he found more room for expressive give-and-take - and a bit of a surprise, when the audience burst out clapping, right in the middle of the cadenza!

The end of the first movement brought another drastic acceleration - an exciting race to the end, which again gave everyone the urge to clap - resulting in a big standing ovation for Randall - after the first movement.

The happy conclusion about this break in tradition leads me to suspect that there were a good many newcomers in the house. Indeed, the hall was fuller than I've seen it in some time, with sizable groups of young people in attendance.

After a second movement with a lot of forward motion, Goosby really found his element in the third movement. He played the opening with a sense of mischief and humor, as if he were trying to tame a theme that kept scurrying away - and of course, it does take off. But he certainly kept up with it, generating a blizzard of notes with ease, control, speed, and accuracy. When he stopped to take a bow at the concerto's conclusion, at least five broken hairs were dangling from his bow.

Once again, the robust audience immediately rose to its feet. After three ovations, Goosby played an encore: Louisiana Blues Strut" by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - rhythmic, funky, full of double-stops. Loved it!

During the second half of the concert the LA Phil played Sibelius's Symphony No. 2, a largely sunny work with moments of great majesty and power. The second movement showed the most mystery and darkness, with melodies that pulled at the heartstrings. (Everyone clapped after this movement as well). Overall I felt a sense of pushing the tempo much of the time and longed for a bit more repose. The final movement, with its larger-than-life themes, ended in music that sounded like a swirl of victory and shimmery sunlight.

The concert opened with "Liguria" a piece by Andrea Tarrodi (b. 1981), who was in the audience for the performance on Thursday. Themed after Italian fishing villages off the coast of the Ligurian Sea, the piece succeeds in creating a sense of place, opening with ascending tremolos that sounds like waves crashing, those settling into smaller rumbles as the music moves to more tranquil climes. A more percussive section sounded like a gentle hailstorm, and the the sound of a bell kept returning, like a chime from a clocktower or church at the village's center.

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