Behold, a sensation. Her name is Sandy Cameron, she’s an American violinist in her 30s and a performer of intoxicating originality. Danny Elfman, the film composer and creator of The Simpson’s theme tune, spotted her playing with contemporary circus group Cirque du Soleil, liked what he saw and heard, and wrote her a violin concerto last year. It was the centrepiece in Sunday’s concert in Tucson, Arizona, which opened this week’s West Coast US tour by the RSNO.
RSNO US Tour, Centennial Hall, Tucson, Arizona *****
Elfman’s concerto, “Eleven Eleven” (Elf being “eleven” in German), is a substantial four-movement work, a full-on fusion of lush late-Romanticism and feverish 20th century rhythmic fire, with acknowledged gratitude to some of the great violin concertos of the last century - the acerbic bite of Shostakovich, the sultry harmonic hues of Berg, and a conscious nod, it seems, to Prokofiev in the triadic motif introduced in the first movement cadenza.
Luxuriously scored, it also possesses the gold label charisma of film music, tracts of irrepressible lustre and a whopping great cinematic climax. Playing it calls for more than straightforward musicianship; it calls for performance art, which is what Cameron delivered with pinpoint finesse and agility.
It was a whole body experience for her. For this was not just a showcase of astonishing violin virtuosity. Every note, every expressive musical nuance, was matched by choreographed body and footwork that was nimble and beguiling, gorgeously balletic one moment, wantonly shimmying the next.
RSNO music director Thomas Søndergård crafted the orchestral performance with a galvanising combination of discipline and elan, just as he did either side of the Elfman in the elemental powerhouse that is Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, and the pungency and optimism of Prokofiev’s Fifth. The tour moves on to California today. - KEN WALTON