The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra has pivoted nicely during the pandemic, maintaining performances and programs while many other symphonies and arts organizations took an extended pause.

Earlier this week, the Orchestra was forced to pivot once again when Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Bramwell Tovey developed a mild case of Covid and was forced to quarantine in Sweden. (Note: Tovey reports he is doing fine and looking forward to returning to Rhode Island.)

Notified of Tovey’s illness only two days before the performance, Interim Assistant Conductor Nathaniel Efthimiou came to the rescue… and rose to the challenge.

Friday night, Efthimiou led the Philharmonic through a lively and inspiring performance of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” along with Brahms’ “Violin Concerto” as part of the Amica Rush Hour Series at The Vets in Providence. It was an inspiring debut for the young conductor, who was greeted warmly by those in attendance.

The evening opened with a spirited rendition of the Brahms Concerto, featuring soloist Benjamin Beilman, a rising star in classical music. In defiance of the pandemic, his energetic playing impressed the audience as well as those in the orchestra. Beilman is an animated performer, fully committed to the piece, and with a solid future ahead of him.

Benjamin Beilman (Photo courtesy of RI Philharmonic)

Meanwhile, the orchestra, playing behind a new conductor didn’t miss a beat. Beethoven’s 5th was well-executed, concise, and full of flourishes befitting the celebrated composer. With its repeated themes, shifts in texture and raw drama, the orchestra delivered on one of classical music’s most well-loved symphonies.

It was undoubtedly a special night for the Assistant Conductor.

Before the performance, Executive Director David Beauchesne noted “Many conductors have had their first big break when asked to jump in at the last moment. It will be exciting for all on stage and in the audience to see Nathaniel rise to the challenge of leading the RI Phil in these two great works by Beethoven and Brahms.”

The Philharmonic will present the same program Saturday, January 22, with Efthimiou once again at the helm. The Saturday performance was originally scheduled to feature a Side-by-Side Performance of Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger Overture” with members of the RI Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (RIPYO). However, due to the Omicron surge, the performance has been moved to the March 19th TACO Classical Series concert.

For more information and tickets, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.