Randall Goosby and Christian Reif shine in their Seattle Symphony debuts

United StatesUnited States Julia Perry, Mozart, Shostakovich: Randall Goosby (violin), Seattle Symphony Orchestra / Christian Reif (conductor). Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 10.2.2024. (ZC)

Christian Reif conducts violinist Randall Goosby and the Seattle Symphony © Brandon Patoc

Julia PerryA Short Piece for Orchestra
Mozart – Violin Concerto No.3 in G major
Shostakovich – Symphony No.9 in E-flat major

Violinist Randall Goosby, who has been dazzling audiences since his debut with the Jacksonville Symphony at the age of nine, took center stage with the Seattle Symphony in a recent series of concerts. Goosby’s smooth, warm tone, reminiscent of an earlier era of violin performance – which is not surprising from a former student of Itzhak Perlman’s – has been praised by critics and audiences alike. His career took a major step forward in 2021 with the release of his first album, Roots, featuring music by Dvořák, Florence Price and other rarities. Goosby followed that up in 2023 with Price’s two violin concertos, recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

For his Seattle debut, he performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3, sharing the spotlight with another rising star in classical music, guest conductor Christian Reif. After recently taking the helm of the Gävle Symphony, Reif has built up his bona fides in the U.S. this season with engagements in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Seattle.

Mozart’s concerto is often praised for its optimism and maturity, but Goosby, Reif and the Seattle Symphony delved deeper, exploring the work’s subtle emotional undercurrents. The opening movement pulsated with youthful charm, its melodies wafting through the hall. While the orchestra’s attack initially lacked sharpness, they focused their approach with Reif and Goosby as guides. Reif’s kinetic, balletic energy on the podium mirrored the vibrancy of his interpretation, and the orchestra wove a tapestry of light and shade alongside Goosby’s captivating solo lines.

Goosby was most expressive in the work’s more somber moments. With each achingly delicate phrase, he drew the audience into the heart of Mozart’s masterpiece, before the concerto’s closing rondo provided a burst of ebullience. Goosby’s prowess was on full display as he effortlessly navigated the rapid passages with an ease that masked the formidable skill required. And if Mozart’s concerto were not enough, he followed it with a felicitous performance of ‘Louisiana Blues Strut’, a short, jazz-inspired work by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

The evening offered two additional gems. It opened with Julia Perry’s A Short Piece for Orchestra, a rarely played work brought to life by Reif’s insightful interpretation. He skillfully unraveled the intricate textures and soloistic writing with technically stunning and emotionally engaging results. Under Reif’s direction, the orchestra delivered a vibrant rendition, demonstrating their versatility and adaptability.

The program closed with Shostakovich’s Symphony No.9 which showcased the Seattle Symphony’s transparency and balanced playing, carefully honed over the years. Bite and wit were judiciously employed, offsetting the symphony’s moments of whimsy and sarcasm. It was a testament to the orchestra’s cohesion and responsiveness, even in the middle of their ongoing search for a permanent music director.

Goosby has a bright future ahead. Under Reif’s leadership, the Seattle Symphony proved once again to be a versatile and talented ensemble, capable of mastering the demands of an eclectic program. But the concert was most of all a testament to the power of collaboration, showcasing the synergy of a virtuoso, conductor and orchestra and resulting in an unforgettable evening of music-making.

Zach Carstensen

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