Sterling Elliott delivers fresh take on Schumann’s Cello Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony

Oct 24, 2023

Sterling Elliott made his debut with the New Jersey Symphony as the guest performer for Schumann’s Cello Concerto, with conductor Joseph Young leading the Symphony through the East Coast Premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s Snapshots and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Courtney Smith of would give her review of the first performance at NJPAC.

Both Elliott and Young played down the rhapsodic, lyrical elements and introspection in favor of the formal structure and clarity. The effect was aphoristic and modern. High romance and sentiment were refined into clean, bright phrasing and clear rubato ... A warm and gracious accord between the two artists meant tempos and rhythms developed freely. Young was both observant of Schumann’s markings and of Elliott’s projection and penetration, never overweighing the orchestral line.

Courtney Smith of

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Nancy Plum of Town Topics would review the Symphony’s performance with Elliott in Princeton.

In the opening movement, Elliott’s solo playing subtly emerged from the orchestral texture to an undulating accompaniment. Playing with a great deal of vibrato in the opening passages, Elliott easily found the intensity of the music as Young led the players to a full symphonic sound. Elliott concurrently found a sweetness in the melodic lines, and Young and the musicians changed musical moods smoothly. Elliott was joined in the second movement “Langsam” by principal cellist Jonthan Spitz playing an elegant solo countermelody against steady pizzicato from the string sections. The closing movement demanded the most from the solo cellist, with Elliott’s fingering racing from bottom to top of the instrument, especially taking his time in the cadenza. In describing his background to the audience, Elliott said that his roots are not just classical, but infused with jazz, hip hop, bluegrass, and a myriad of other styles, which was clear in his ability to handle this complex and demanding work.

Nancy Plum of Town Topics

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James C. Taylor of NJ Advance Media would review the Sunday performance at NJPAC, taking note of Young’s conducting of Enigma Variations.

Young is a magisterial podium presence, and his crisp baton movements artfully sculpted the contours of Elgar’s famous score. The sweeping “Nimrod” variation was particularly strong, with Young building it to a ravishing climax without ever making it sound sappy or saccharine.

James C. Taylor of NJ Advance Media

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