A debut and a substitution in the same concert: it happens not very often that a debutant plays with another conductor than she or he has expected and already long ago counted upon. It befell the Latvian violinist Baiba Skride at her debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam when the injured Andris Nelsons was replaced by Paavo Järvi. For Järvi meant a successful return to the RCO after eight years. For Skride – an unexpected chance to play Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto with the conductor who has already proved to be the best choice possible for this composition. Järvi’s recording with the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen made Britten’s only violin concerto tremendously popular here in the Netherlands.

Järvi has acquired much experience since his last appearance here and the Chief Conductor of the Orchestre de Paris has just been appointed chief of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. He took over an unchanged programme and gave Baiba Skride just enough space for her own interpretation, which sparkled from the first note to the last. She demonstrated a gentle and sophisticated sound, impeccable technique and a rhythmic and intonational flexibility of phrasing. She added just the right dose of brightness and vividness to this irresistibly fickle concerto with its remarkable changes of tonalities and moods. Skride was lyric, resolute and even pithy – as was her pizzicato. Her thrilling pianissimos deserve a special mention, as well as an impressively played cadenza which connected the various themes from the concerto's first two parts with the variations of the Passacaglia: Andante lento. In her peerless interpretation, Skride was ably assisted by the orchestra.

After the interval the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra moved with the same ease from pure sounds and intense colored moods of Britten to Ravel. The world of classical purity, dreams, finesse and inevitable dissonance resonated in the six parts of Le tombeau de Couperin. And the world of ancient Greece, dreamed by the French painters of the 18th century, was portrayed with the brightest colours and rhythms in the second Daphnis et Chloé suite. Under the baton of Paavo Järvi, the RCO recreated this ‘choreographic symphony’ with boiling passion right up to the final “Danse générale”. These glowing performances of Britten and Ravel needed just this kind of finale to close an evening which turned out to be beyond all expectations.