In one of the more significant Philadelphia Orchestra debuts since Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Tugan Sokhiev led fresh-minted performances in what could have felt like the ultimate rerun: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (which began the current season) and the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures From an Exhibition Thursday at the Kimmel Center.
The Tchaikovsky performance was safer, more conventional, and less consistently charismatic than Anne-Sophie Mutter's, which opened the current season. In fact, violinist Vadim Gluzman, also making his debut, didn't settle in until the second movement. Prior to that, the brilliant and the commonplace, the cursory and the deeply committed were often cheek by jowl. His tone was brittle and grainy one minute, appropriately soaring and songful the next. At times he fused with the orchestra with cumulative force, and then threatened to go out of sync. Although the performance summoned requisite excitement in the final movement, this was not a talent operating at full force. One looks forward to his return engagement.