Violinist Electrifies Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Audiences In Concert Worth The Wait And Travel


It was a concert worth waiting for – and also worth visiting.

The Arkansas Symphony’s late-January Masterworks concert pairing, postponed amid the pandemic, later ran into a scheduling conflict at Robinson Center Performance Hall and had to change venues.

Thus, violinist Shannon Lee, performing solo in Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto” on Saturday evening with the orchestra and guest conductor Andrew Crust, assistant conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, rather electrified the public at Maumelle. Performing Arts Centre, where the orchestra performed while Robinson was under reconstruction (July 2014-November 2016).

It would be hard to tell which moved faster – Lee’s fingers or his bow arm – at the end of the first and third movements. And if she had looked a little less serious, we could have known that she was having a good time. The standing ovation earned the audience a fascinating, if unidentified, encore.

Conductor Crust found himself explaining how an all-Russian program that made sense when it was put together two years ago could be about a concert taking place as Russia devastates Ukraine. It focused on the anti-authoritarian attitude of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose short, ironic and whimsical “Symphony No. 9” was the central attraction of the first half.

And just before the orchestra performed the “Polovtsian Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor”, he quoted the words sung by a choir of slaves absent from the Saturday evening concert comparing their mal du country to the fate of Ukrainian refugees. The orchestra opened by playing the Ukrainian national anthem.

Lee, Crust and the orchestra will rehearse the program at 3pm today in the performance hall, which is part of Maumelle High School, 100 Victory Lane, Maumelle. For ticket information, call (501) 666-1761, ext. 1, or visit ArkansasSymphony.org.

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