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Beethoven Mendelssohn and Dvořák: Tasmin Little (violin), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Janusz Piotrowicz, Royal Albert Hall, London, 2.11.2010 (BBr)

Overture: Egmont, op.84 (1810)

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, op.64 (1844)

Dvořák: Symphony No.9 in E minor, From the New World, op.95 (1893)

Despite his name, Janusz Piotrowicz is a Yorkshireman by birth and he lists Dr Who as one of his interests. Perhaps it is his knowledge of Time and Relative Dimensions in Space which allowed him to approach three such well-known works as those heard tonight and inject new life into them. Despite using a large string body, Piotrowicz brought about in Beethoven’s celebrated overture a performance of classical dimensions, which was full of power and excitement, and with a slight quickening of the pace for the coda he brought the work to a thrilling conclusion.

In the Mendelssohn Concerto Tasmin Little tonight played as I have never heard her play before; by turning her back on all thoughts of the virtuoso she concerned herself entirely with the lyrical aspects of the score. Throughout the work she soared above the orchestra, singing the most eloquent songs and creating a magical, heart-rending atmosphere in the slow movement. Of course, virtuosity wasn’t forgotten but Ms Little was content to let the passagework be subsidiary to the thematic material. What was most surprising was that, notwithstanding the size of the Albert Hall, her performance had all the qualities of an intimate chamber recital, given for a handful of friends. This was a truly exemplary account of this most loveable of violin concertos.

Piotrowicz directed what, at one level, seemed to be a straightforward reading of Dvořák’s most popular symphony, but one which, as it progressed, turned out to be a carefully thought out interpretation with a clear purpose and strong line from beginning to end. After setting a strong tempo for the first movement he stuck to it, with only a slight slowing for the second theme, after which it was sheer exhilaration. The slow movement was graced with Leila Ward’s cor anglais and the faster middle section wasn’t allowed to overpower the more sustained music which surrounded it. The scherzo bounded along, the peasants obviously having a good time in the fields after a days work. With the finale we were plunged into a raging torrent of emotions as Piotrowicz directed a powerhouse of a performance which was unrelenting in its forward thrust, and at the end, with all passions spent, the bald chord for winds and brass was equivocal, leaving one wondering what, exactly, the composer was trying to tell us. This chimed perfectly with my own feelings about what Dvořák felt about his American sojourn. This was spine-tingling stuff.

Yet again, the Royal Philharmonic was on top form, responsive and alert to everything Piotrowicz demanded of them.

Bob Briggs

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