Concerto No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129 (1967); Tchaikovsky,
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 (1888): Janine Jansen,
violin, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andrés
Orozco-Estrada, Berwald Hall, Stockholm, 12.05.2006 (GF)
The ominous muffled sound of the double
basses at the beginning of the first movement casts its
spell over the whole Violin Concerto No. 2, the last of
Shostakovich’s concertos, premiered by its dedicatee
David Oistrakh in September 1967 and later recorded by
him with Kondrashin conducting. It is a gloomy work, inward
and brooding, and only in the last movement we recognise
something of the vitality and power of the “other”
Shostakovich. This inwardness is probably the reason why
this is the least played of his concertos, and it needs
to be heard repeatedly to reveal its qualities. It also
needs a wholehearted and technically accomplished soloist
and that is exactly what it got at the Berwald Hall last
Friday in the shape of young Dutch violinist Janine Jansen,
whose reputation has spread rapidly since her London debut
a little over three years ago. Her technique is formidable
but she uses it to convey the composer’s intention
to the audience, not to show off, and the quality that
at once caught at least this reviewer was the warmth of
her playing and her exquisite shadings of tone and nuances,
something that was even more to the fore in her encore
piece, played almost as a whisper to a breathless audience.
But she also has tremendous glow and power when she digs
into some of the aggressive jaggedly rhythmical parts.
The notoriously difficult cadenza of the first movement,
which even Oistrakh initially regarded as unsurmountable,
was delivered with such gusto that the horsehair of her
bow literally burnt.
She was well partnered by the likewise young Colombian
conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who stepped in
for an ailing Edo de Waart at short notice. Mr Orozco-Estrada,
born in 1977, has permanent positions in Vienna and Graz
and a steady growing career as guest conductor, and on
this hearing he showed a good ear for orchestral balance
and a striving for transparency of the orchestral fabric.
This was also obvious in his reading of Tchaikovsky’s
fifth symphony. The originally scheduled symphony was
another fifth, Gustav Mahler’s, and it would have
been interesting to hear his view of this monumental work.
Tchaikovsky’s symphony is also monumental, at least
partly, and under some conductors’ guidance it can
be bombastic, if the maestro applies the colour with broad
brush strokes. Mr Orozco-Estrada paints with thinner lines
and the over-riding impression was one of lightness. The
third movement, with its whirling string and woodwind
conversations sounded almost Mendelssohnian weightless.
He also made the most of the dynamics, accentuating the
many hairpin crescendos and diminuendos, and, like any
good speaker, he knows the importance of articulation,
which relies on good breathing. There were many small
but important commas in his score. This filigree work
with details didn’t exclude powerful, but controlled,
climaxes and the end of the work was as jubilant as could
be. A refreshing reading of a work that all too easily
can invite to routine conducting and playing.
The playing by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra was
as usual these days everything one could wish and the
many important wind solos in the symphony were excellently
executed with an extra rosette to the beautiful French
horn in the second movement.
Readers who were not present in the Berwald Hall may still
already have heard the concert since it was live broadcast
by EBU, and if that is the case, hopefully will confirm
my positive response.