The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra with soloist Yura Lee performed Tchaikovsky?s Symphony No. 5 and Mendelssohn?s Violin Concerto in e-minor last Thursday.


The concert began with a short piece called ?The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra,? taken from John Adams? 1985 opera, ?Nixon.? Adams, a modern American composer, is a minimalist. The work is structured as a perpetual crescendo ? at no point does it come to a dynamic resolution.

The orchestra, led by Jorge Mester, held together well even during the more frantic parts of this fast-paced piece.

Hot-ticket item

Contrasting the modernist beginning was Lee?s highly touted Rochester performance.

Korean-born Lee made her concert debut in Korea at age seven, performing the difficult Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1. Since then she has toured the world, playing extensively with major orchestras both in the United States and overseas.

With all the hype built up around her performance, I wondered if the small, young girl who marched onto the stage could live up to her reputation.

She did not disappoint.

From the first note, Lee fearlessly attacked the piece. She wasn?t overly mechanical ? Lee played the piece with energy, taking warranted liberties. After her performance, she received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Second half

After the intermission, the orchestra returned with Tchaikovsky?s Symphony No. 5, one of his greatest masterpieces. It is both calm and daring.

Beginning with an Andante rather than an Allegro, it doesn?t attempt to slap the audience in the face immediately with sound, but rather charms the listener before a powerful blast from the brass section.

The RPO delivered this aspect of the symphony with the highest level of musicianship.

Problems came during the second movement, however ? the opening french horn came in flat, and from that point on the orchestra never fell in sync again. The woodwind section was especially weak in an overall incohesive delivery of the movement.

Despite this lapse, the orchestra played well in the final two movements, especially the fourth. A firm, yet fun movement centered around a strong brass section, the final Allegro-Vivace movement sounded like a triumphant march.

On the whole ? a good but not great interpretation of the classic.


The concert highlight was undoubtedly the remarkable performance of Yura Lee.

If she ever comes to perform with the RPO again, I?d strongly suggest attending the concert regardless of what she is playing. Her energy, vitality and virtuosity should not be missed.

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