Move over, Schubert: Marié Rossano has arrived. During concerts at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater and Puyallup’s Pioneer Park Pavilion last weekend the Northwest Sinfonietta learned the hard way that the 17-year-old prodigy violinist Rossano was far and away the headline attraction over classical greats Beethoven and Schubert, causing audiences to give standing ovations midway through pieces and leave in droves right after her performance.
Rossano, a Seattle teenager who already studies at the Curtis Institute of Music and who wowed Sinfonietta audiences two years ago with her rendition of the Brahms double concerto with cellist Julian Schwarz, deserves her accolades. Charging through the Tchaikovsky concerto with rock-star attitude, she alternated a big, fat, gritty tone on the fortes with wafer-thin pianos, putting the war-horse concerto through its paces with a take-no-prisoners determination. Brilliantly-executed scales and arpeggios finished with Jimi Hendrix flourishes, the waif-like Rossano bouncing on her toes and occasionally stamping her foot for extra emphasis in a gutsy rendition that made the Russian folk-tunes sound like a gypsy hoe-down. Exquisite high notes in the first movement gave way to an expressive, wintry interpretation of the second (including a beautiful duet with flute), and after a violent cadenza full of strings hitting the fingerboard and crackling bow articulations she danced gleefully and flawlessly through the third movement, clearly relishing interactions with the orchestra and grinning mischievously at conductor Christophe Chagnard.
And the audience loved it. At both concerts Rossano got an entire standing ovation after just the first movement, earning herself a Bach encore in Puyallup as well.
The trouble in Tacoma was that Rossano’s Tchaikovsky romp came just before intermission. On a night with competing events at the Pantages, Tacoma Dome, Convention Center and art museum, the Rialto was nevertheless nearly full by the start of the concerto; after intermission, however, just half the crowd had remained to hear Schubert’s fourth symphony, the “Tragic.” It was indeed tragic, as this little-played work got a thorough and expressive treatment from the ensemble: a steely, inexorable opening; a spirited allegro (though not always together); powerful rolls of thunder in cello/bass and timpani; a moving but restful second movement with sweet interludes from oboe, flute and bassoon; a headlong menuet with bombastic syncopations; and a turbulent finale with cello/horn ejaculations worthy of Richard Strauss. Throughout the work Chagnard elicited great clarity, if not volume, with precise classical dynamic structure.
But the “Tragic” is not as easy a listen as either Marié Rossano or Beethoven’s “Egmont” overture which opened the show with fabulous horn blasts and wildly triumphant flourishes. So in Puyallup they flipped the program, requiring the full-house audience to sit through an hour of Schubert before getting to what was now the main act: Marié Rossano.
Still, Schubert probably wouldn’t have minded being upstaged. Just 19 himself when he wrote the Fourth, he probably realized the attraction of a dynamic young soloist playing one of classical music’s favorite works. But it might make the Sinfonietta think twice about its upcoming season. With several A-list soloists in the line-up, we wouldn’t want any more audience members to walk out at intermission.
The Northwest Sinfonietta plays next on April 27-29 at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, Tacoma’s Rialto Theater and Puyallup’s Pioneer Park Pavilion. 888-356-6040, www.nwsinfonietta.org