Audiences generally ask for an encore when they like what they've heard and want more of the same. After the concerto Veronika Eberle performed Thursday night in her Philadelphia Orchestra debut at Verizon Hall, however, the German violinist chose an encore that filled in parts of her character that hadn't surfaced earlier.
She might have come off as simply another very fine musician were Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor the only available vehicle — a violinist of great tone, and an occasional stretching for a bar at a time to emphasize a minor emotional crucible. The sweetness of her playing and slightly brisk tempo of the second movement complemented each other. Conductor Alain Altinoglu accommodated her wishes with ease.
But in the encore, all sorts of other qualities blossomed. The second movement of Prokofiev's Sonata for Solo Violin glowed. Eberle's sound moved through four or five distinct colors, and she underscored emotional points with highly developed ideas about phrasing. Some of these qualities are best heard in the clearing of unaccompanied playing, to be sure. But this piece was simply more highly evolved than her Mendelssohn.
Altinoglu opened with Dutilleux's Métaboles, which has become nearly standard repertoire since being commissioned and premiered more than a half century ago by the Cleveland Orchestra. It works particularly well with the Philadelphia Orchestra — the tight, acerbic Stravinsky intervals of the opening answered by warm strings, and the constantly pressing pace Altinoglu used to bring the latter part of the work right up to the edge.
It seemed promising when the same kind of inexorable intensity gathered steam in the first movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 1. But fast, steady tempos were about as deep as Altinoglu seemed willing to go, and he passed up chances to say more. There are places in this piece where the same material, later repeated, can be shaped in a different way to make a different expressive point. Altinoglu had no time for sentiment – just intensity.
Additional performances: 2 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday in Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Streets. Tickets: $10-$147. Information: 215-893-1999, www.philorch.org.