Only a prodigy can play the violin really well at the age of fourteen; to do it as well as Jacobo Christensen (Valencia, 1999) does takes more than a prodigy. That is something that only a few privileged young players can achieve, among the very few who are able to play the violin really well at that age.
Technically, Christensen still has room for growth; he could tighten up a note here and there, for example. But he has already mastered the hardest part: on the one hand, he coaxes out a warm, almost human sound. On the other, he shows musical intelligence rare even among much more experienced and even highly acclaimed players, to be able to probe the thousand and one nuances of tempo and dynamics, seen specifically in his expressive and subtle shading with the rubato that the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Op. 64 demands. The audience was left wanting more, and not only wishing that he had played the rest of the concert.
His performance was indeed the highlight of the evening. The concert kicked off with a Moldau by Smetana that was very far from producing the emotions usually associated with the piece, among other problems because of the battering rhythm of the nuptial scene, and the precarious melding of the violins in the Claire de lune.
Next was a Concerto by Grieg in which the soloist’s and orchestra’s entries coincided but occasionally (most evident in the exposition of the first movement passim, the return to the initial section in the second, and the first chord of the third) with the timber of both generally lacking in charm.
Andrey Yaroshinksky (Moscow, 1986) was definitely not remembered for such a harsh sound, or for so much friction from when he won third prize in the Iturbi Competition in 2006 and took first place four years later, or from his concert last year with the Philharmonic.
The audience, up to the rafters in spite of the torturous queues associated with the Free Concert Series, applauded enthusiastically for all, including the mechanical rendition of Beethoven’s Eighth, under the baton of Pablo Rus (Godella), that closed the concert.