The Classical Station’s interview with Randall Goosby for Preview!
Interview with Randall Goosby
by Bethany Tillerson (Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas)
Randall Goosby, a graduate of Juilliard, a student of Itzhak Perlman, and a wonderful violinist in his own right, appears on our program, Preview!, this week. In their May 2023 recording, Randall Goosby and The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin blend compositions by Florence Price and Max Bruch, some of which have never seen a commercial recording release before.
KENNEDY: Randall, tell our listeners what it was like working with one of the world’s top musicians, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
GOOSBY: It was such a special opportunity to create this album with Yannick and with The Philadelphia Orchestra. He brings such an effortless and natural energy and passion to his work. To have that underpinning what was essentially the first commercial release of these Florence Price recordings was really, really special. And I think that energy and that freshness really finds its way into the recording.
KENNEDY: The Max Bruch Violin Concerto is a great favorite of our listeners here at The Classical Station. Tell us a bit about what makes it such a marvelous piece of music for a virtuoso violinist such as you.
GOOSBY: There’s something in it for everyone. I guess that’s part of what makes it such a well-liked concerto in so many different parts of the world. There’s absolutely everything you could ask for from a great piece of music–you’ve got the drama, the excitement, the virtuosity, the athleticism, and of course, even the intimacy that you find in the second movement, almost like you’re singing or humming something quietly to yourself. There’s so much variation in the expression. Bruch really knew what he was doing. It’s one of my absolute favorite pieces of all time in the classical repertoire, so it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get into this work and bring some new life to it.
KENNEDY: Which is your favorite historical recording of the Max Bruch concerto?
GOOSBY: There’s something to love about every single recording. When I was young, my favorite was either Perlman or Zukerman’s–specifically that second movement with Zukerman. There’s something about the way that his left hand moves around in between the intervals that just gets me every time. I’m a complete nut for David Oistrakh, and as for Itzhak Perlman, my former teacher, I could listen to any recording of his any day for the rest of time. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
KENNEDY: Yes, there have been so many great virtuosos over the years. Now, tell us about Florence Price’s two violin concertos. Were they recently discovered?
GOOSBY: Yes, they were discovered fairly recently as part of a large collection of Florence Price’s music that was unearthed in what used to be her summer home outside of Chicago. That home was set to be torn down in 2009, and the people involved in the project took a look around inside the house and found hundreds of pages of music, manuscripts, letters, notes. Included in that collection of materials were these two violin concertos. This is the first commercially released recording, but there has been another recording since the discovery. Luckily, I was able to reference that recording along with the score. It’s really incredible what Florence Price was able to do with these pieces.
What I think is special about having both concerti on the album is that you get a sense of Florence Price’s growth. The second concerto is clearly very different than the first. It’s basically one movement. It’s almost like a tone poem, it’s continuous movement compared to the first concerto, which is in three clearly defined movements. The first concerto is very clearly modeled after the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. That leads me to believe that Price was getting her feet wet and figuring out what this violin concerto was as a medium for expression.
There’s a lot going on in that first concerto. It’s full of surprises, full of the soulful lyricism that is a defining factor in her music. Equally so, it’s full of this sort of athletic, super quick, fleeting harmonic motion. All of those things, of course, find their way into the second concerto, but I think it’s a little more concise and a little more compact. As far as the consistency of themes from beginning to end, I think the second concerto falls together just a little bit better than the first. Both of these concerti take a couple of listens to give yourself the time and space to hear and notice all of the different moving parts. It’s really cool music, really unique in the world of violin concertos. And I’m just thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to put it all together with Yannick and The Philadelphia Orchestra.
KENNEDY: Were these concerti written or commissioned for a particular purpose?
GOOSBY: Not that I know of. I think these were personal explorations for Florence Price. I haven’t had a chance to go down to the university in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her archives are kept. I’m sure there are some golden nuggets of history in there that probably shed more light on these concerti, and hopefully I have a chance to unearth those in the near future.
KENNEDY: I’ve been following you on social media for the last year or so, and I’ve been very impressed with all of your stories and the different locations you’ve visited. Tell us how you manage that, because it really is so helpful for promoting your artistry.
GOOSBY: There’s a lot of exciting things going on in and around my life, and I want to be able to share that with those who are following me and my journey. I don’t get a chance to share absolutely everything, unfortunately, but little by little, I’m sort of getting the hang of finding some sense of consistency with sharing this wonderful journey that I’m on. So, yeah, I appreciate hearing that you’re following and that somebody is seeing all of these posts.
KENNEDY: Randall, thank you so much for sharing about this wonderful new album with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
GOOSBY: Thank you very much. It was great to speak with you, Rob. Thanks for your time.
Join us to listen to Randall Goosby’s interview on Sunday, October 29, at 7 p.m. Listen on TheClassicalStation.org, 89.7 FM, or our app.