At last, the Philadelphia Orchestra is making a solid return to the international recording market.
String tone arrived in finer shades, basses were more bold, like something from a Russian church choir, and wind blends favored the darker English horn, which became a larger-than-usual presence with Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia's incredibly poetic first-movement solo.
The composer's own Philadelphia-made recordings of his music tended to be more contained. But by this point in history, might we understand Rachmaninoff's music better than he did? We've certainly heard it often enough.
The concert opened with Michel van der Aa, the major Dutch composer best known for cutting-edge multimedia operas such as Sunken Garden, now playing in Dallas. His 2014 Violin Concerto, heard here in its U.S. premiere, meets tradition more than halfway, with the composer limiting himself to acoustic instruments (no electronic track, in other words).
Unburdened by an operatic plot, the gleefully rambunctious concerto freely explores gestures with collage-like interplay and little allegiance to any one key.
The outcome in the first movement is mildly muddy — with a promising beginning that's not quite sustained. The stronger narrative of the second movement happily recalls the color and mystery of 20th-century French composer Henri Dutilleux.
The excellent final movement shows the composer using the kind of perpetual-motion rhythms that are so effective in Sunken Garden, a suspenseful opera about demonic possession in the age of virtual reality. Movement endings are refreshingly abrupt.
Jansen's series of "Perspectives" concerts this season at Carnegie Hall has established her as a violinist whose passion, imagination, and alluring tone quality make you drop everything to hear her. The van der Aa concerto stands to be her capstone achievement when this Philadelphia Orchestra program migrates to Carnegie Hall on Tuesday.