How much of Tchaikovsky’s emotional state can be detected in his famed Violin Concerto? And how should the soloist express it? The question was delightfully answered by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Emerging Artist in Association, 21-year-old Australian violinist Grace Clifford, who recently graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and who was the ABC’s 2014 Young Performer of the Year. Written in the aftermath of the breakdown of his marriage and while holidaying with violinist Josef Kotek, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, is a pillar of the violin repertoire, demanding the utmost of the soloist technically.

Grace Clifford Grace Clifford. Photo © Anthony Browell

Conductor Hendrik Vestmann’s clear but unhurried pacing allowed Clifford to develop what indeed turned out to be a personal and at times dreamily meditative account of the concerto, as she revealed the emotional turmoil and heartbreak that lie beneath Tchaikovsky’s cascading notes. The Canzonettasecond movement became a deeply felt and moving soliloquy and the sudden shift to the Allegro Vivacissimothird movement, which evokes traditional Russian dances, suggested a violent mood swing. Clifford not only thrived on Tchaikovsky’s demanding score, she offered an...

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