There is a lot of Leonard Bernstein in concert halls these days; in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the iconic composer’s birth, performers worldwide are participating in Bernstein at 100, a two-year global celebration. Princeton Symphony Orchestra joined the party this past weekend at Richardson Auditorium by devoting the opening concert of the 2018-19 season to music of the American legend. A clear sign of growth and success, Princeton Symphony Orchestra has expanded its classical series to two performances of several of the classical concerts this season. Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) brought several of Bernstein’s more popular works to life, featuring two stellar solo performers.
Bernstein’s most immortal stage production is without a doubt West Side Story, which was represented Saturday night by the West Side Story Suite for Violin and Orchestra, arranged by award-winning Broadway orchestrator William David Brohn.
Featured in this performance was guest soloist Daniel Rowland, whose playing exploited all the ranges and characteristics of the violin.
Brohn arranged the solo violin part of this Suite in virtuosic fashion, well capturing the melodies and dramatic conflicts of Bernstein’s musical.
Rowland’s solo line began in an improvisatory style, but he showed himself just as capable of conveying a sweet love tune as a fiery passage laden with double-stops. Rowland played an especially elegant obbligato line to the dance music of Tony and Maria. “Tonight” was conveyed as a series of graceful duets among Rowland, principal cellist Alistair MacRae, and concertmaster Basia Danilow. Rowland’s closing cadenza was full of virtuosic fireworks and quick double-stops, as Milanov brought the Suite to a close with a spirited recall of the jazzier themes in the music.
Expansion of the classical concert series to Saturday night looked to be a success for Princeton Symphony, and the ensemble is off to a great start for the new season.