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Shostakovich Violin 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.

Göran Forsling





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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)