I was asked about Rachel Lee, a young phenom (not yet 21) who was a guest soloist with the Hartford Symphony in late October.
The first thing I look for in a young soloist is poise, and that's something that doesn't come through completely until you get into the heat of performance. In this regard, Miss Lee was a total professional -- anything new and different on performance night did not throw her off in the slightest...if anything, she would merely smile and run with it.
But there was something else about her that struck me from the first rehearsal, and that was her courage to do what she felt Mendelssohn asked. The first movement of his Violin Concerto has the tempo marking, Allegro appasionato, but most violinists play the piece as if Mendelssohn writes "Allegro vivace." Miss Lee had the gumption to take a tempo that was not fast -- some might even think it was a tad too slow -- but the end result was that her tempo choice allowed her to fully express the 'appasionato' direction, giving her time to do things in between the notes that would not have been possible at a faster pace.
Interestingly, the orchestra was somewhat divided on her interpretation --- some wanted the 'usual,' while others were very taken with her unique musical point of view. (Our concertmaster, Leonid Sigal, was among those who were truly impressed with her.)
I would welcome the opportunity to make music with her again, and look forward to witnessing her continued growth as an artist.