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S & H Concert Review

Borodin, Tchaikovsky, , Nicola Loud (violin), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Matthias Bamert, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, 1st June 2002 (SHJ)


The Queen’s Jubilee prom at Buckingham Palace was not the only sell-out classical concert in London last Saturday, but it must have proved far more satisfactory than the one taking place at the Royal Festival Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances was occasionally vibrant, but – with the exception of some exceptionally well-crafted wind solos – generally lacked direction and vigour.

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto suffered similarly; violinist Nicola Loud’s interpretation was noticeably undaring and, despite some interesting musical details, her performance was tonally one-dimensional. Loud has real musical empathy with Tchaikovsky’s sonorous melodic writing, but this performance was marred by technical and intonational insecurities; perhaps the limp and uninspired orchestral accompaniment was a distraction. An unrhythmic Bach encore followed.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6, "Pathetique" began with yet more tired orchestral playing, the thin string sound at odds with the lush woodwind textures. Finally, in the third and fourth movements of the symphony, the fruits of Tchaikovsky’s melodic genius lifted the orchestral to a new level (who can fail to be moved by such melodic beauty?), and the musicians at last began to stir. More convincing thematic characterisation evolved into genuine impassioned enthusiasm, and the audience went home happy.

Simon Hewitt Jones

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