The Rochester Philharmonic made its Washington debut last night in a solid performance under its music director David Zinman. Its appearance also marked the beginning of the Kennedy Center's new Orchestra Discovery Series, which will feature conductors and orchestras not previously heard in the nation's capital.
The program opened with Donald Erb's "Sonneries," a work written especially for the Rochester Philharmonic and premiered earlier this month in its home town. A well-crafted piece, "Sonneries" gave the orchestra ample opportunity to show off its bright and precise style. It is the second major work of this American composer to be premiered by the symphony, which gave the first performance of his Cello Concerto in 1976. Erb was on hand to acknowledge the audience's applause.
The 21-year-old violinist Joseph Swensen, currently a student of Dorothy Delay at Juilliard, made an able and agile soloist in Prokofieff's Second Violin Concerto. However, both he and the orchestra failed to bring to life the more interior aspects of this rather philosophical composition. The second half of the evening was devoted to Strauss' "Don Quixote," which the orchestra projected in a polished manner, though at times a more sumptuous sound would have been welcome. The Rochester Philharmonic's principal cellist Steven Doane brought considerable color and pointed characterization to his role as soloist, with some particularly strong additions from violist Christian Woehr.