Twenty-five-year-old violinist Randall Goosby made waves earlier this year with the Decca release of his debut album, “Roots,” a celebration of music written and inspired by Black American musicians. This weekend sees another Goosby debut, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Under the baton of Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska, Goosby will perform Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor. A staple among Romantic violin concertos, it’s somewhat more traditional repertoire than the pieces featured on “Roots,” but still one that holds significance for Goosby.
“It’s been a favorite ‘Top 3 ’ piece of mine for as long as I’ve known it,” Goosby said in an interview. And he’s known it for a while: Goosby first performed the Bruch — or at least the first movement — as a 12-year-old at Durango, Colorado’s Music in the Mountains festival.
When asked about that performance, Goosby let out a belly laugh. “You’re taking it way back! I still come across that video sometimes and think, ‘Wow, we’ve come quite a ways.’ And yet the concerto still has the same meaning for me.”
The 2009 performance marked a “transitional time” in Goosby’s his studies. It was at Music in the Mountains that he met violinist Philippe Quint, who took on the young violinist as a student. Goosby described those subsequent lessons as “the first intense, in-depth studies of music and of violin playing that I’d had until that point.”
Many of those lessons focused on the Bruch. “With this piece, I got a little bit of a wake-up call as to what I needed to be expecting of myself — digging as deep as I possibly can and finding all of those special moments that I have to work with.”
As for those special moments, there are quite a few. Besides the dawn-breaking quality of the violin’s first note — an open G, the lowest on the instrument — it’s the second movement that “doesn’t get old” for Goosby.
“In the development, when the theme comes back, I have it in a much higher register. The orchestra sort of drops out and they have this beautiful, sort of floating texture — that place has always brought goose bumps. That’s one of the moments where time just stands still.”
While reflecting on his early years as a musician, Goosby was quick to credit his parents: “I think starting from the age of eight, I never had less than an hour and a half commute for lessons.” Lessons with Quint involved monthly schleps to New York City from his then-home base of Memphis; those became weekly trips when Goosby was admitted into The Juilliard School’s pre-college program, referred by none other than violin giant Itzhak Perlman.
While Goosby’s mother encouraged him and his two younger siblings to “play an instrument, any instrument,” Goosby’s affinity for the violin “came out of nowhere.” But once he picked it up, at the age of seven, he recalled that “suddenly there was always classical music playing in the house or the car. We all were sort of introduced to and fell in love with this music as a family.”
There were other genres in the mix: “Behind Oistrakh, Perlman, Heifetz — all these great older-era violinists — I’d say the artist I listen to the most is Stevie Wonder. I love old soul ballads and Motown tunes. I like to think that all of that plays into what I bring to the violin any time I pick it up.”
If debuts are meant to presage the character of an artist’s career, then Goosby’s is one that holds eclecticism and virtuosity in equal regard. There are, at the very least, more Decca albums on the horizon, more appointments with orchestras as concert halls slowly reopen, but Goosby is just as enthusiastic about projects that have yet to come to fruition: launching a concert series or a music festival, collaborations with other instrumentalists and composers.
“I’m really excited about what the future has to hold,” he said.
IF YOU GO: Randall Goosby performs with Dalia Stasevska and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Sept. 25-26 at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Tickets start at $25. Digital access is $10.