Eckart Preu, right, conducts violinist Jennifer Frautschi, left, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Sarah McCullough/courtesy of Portland Symphony Orchestra

Mainers know that spring can hold some surprises. And while that warming season hasn’t yet arrived, the Portland Symphony Orchestra nonetheless added a shocker to its late-January program titled “The Rite of Spring.”

The much-anticipated appearance of the renowned guitarist Pepe Romero taking the lead on Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” a signature piece for him, had to be canceled less than a week before the opening performance because of an unspecified health issue suffered by the legendary master. But a modified show did go forward on Sunday afternoon after PSO Music Director/Conductor Eckart Preu announced that Romero would be here next season.

Brought in to replace the headliner was violinist Jennifer Frautschi, an accomplished California-born artist, to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s popular “Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64.” It wasn’t long into her performance before any sense of disappointment about the program change had faded.

The Mendelssohn work, known for its technical demands on the soloist, was taken on with full gusto by the youthful Frautschi. The piece’s vibrant flow was spiritedly but assuredly kept intact as the soloist visited the transitional elements – from classical to romantic – that the composer helped to create. Her visit to the familiar themes of the second and last movements felt fresh in her hands. Sophisticated but far from sedate, Frautschi made it all work in a bravura performance for which she and the PSO received extended applause.

After intermission, Preu unleashed the beast. With an expanded PSO, the energetic conductor took everyone straight into an, at times, frighteningly powerful performance of “The Rite of Spring,” a notorious early work by Igor Stravinsky.

Not easy listening, the legendary work shocked audiences over a century ago and still packs a punch. Pile-driving rhythms energize aggressive dissonances as the work tells a musical story based on a pagan spring ritual imagined by the composer. The piece, always at risk of its spectacular elements distracting from its considerable subtleties, asserts an unsettling power that Preu and company took to the limit.

The afternoon began on a more thoughtful note with a performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s much more recent “Sidereus,” a brief overture, inspired by the writings of Galileo, that musically explores the heavens in a dramatic and even cinematic manner. With just the right flavoring of dark mystery in the mix, it’s the type of searching piece that one hopes to hear again soon, likewise, the Mendelsohn concerto, while the Stravinsky “Rite,” even as dynamically executed as it was on Sunday, perhaps could wait a little longer for a reprise.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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