CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Symphony has been forced to make the best of a bad situation, and we are not talking about either the weather or the water for a change.
The last-minute cancellation due to illness of Ukraine-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa left no time for the engagement of another soloist for Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor for this weekend's concerts at the Clay Center.
Conductor Grant Cooper substituted the composer's Symphony No. 2 in D Major for the concerto, pairing it with the other work scheduled, Sibelius' Symphony No. 1 in E Minor.
The orchestra sounded robust and polished in the Brahms, as one would expect from a piece that is still near the top of the list of standard orchestra repertoire.
The opening movement was gracefully phrased and benefited from neat playing by the cellos and violas in the sweet melody of the second theme. The slow movement was richly detailed and lustrous in tone, with subtle playing by the strings, horns and woodwinds.
Cooper made the third movement's switches between graceful, lilting music and vigorous, driving ideas twinkle.
Perhaps the finale could have started with more clarity of texture, but Cooper's interpretation gained from incisive rhythms and a growing sense of energy and proportion. The big trombone and tuba passages that drive the coda were played with authority.
The Sibelius was even better.