MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.


Other Links

Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny
  • Deputy Editor - Bob Briggs
  • Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Opus 60 Mozart and Dvořák: John Anderson (oboe), Christopher Parkes (horn), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Grzegorz Nowak, Cadogan Hall, London, 13.10.2009 (BBr)

Mozart: Oboe Concerto in C, K314 (1777)
Dvořák: Symphony No.8 in G, op.88 (1889)
Mozart: Horn Concerto No.2 in E♭, K417 (1783)
Dvořák: Symphony No.9 in E minor, From the New World, op.95 (1893)

For the second pair of Opus 60 concerts this month, the RPO excelled itself, which is quite an achievement considering the high standard of last week’s performance.

John Anderson’s performance of the Oboe Concerto was quite exquisite. His tone and phrasing were superb, his playing natural and unforced, and, quite simply, he was a delight to listen to. A composer friend of mine recently told me that he finds the oboe the most difficult instrument for which to write solo music. Mozart obviously didn’t, but perhaps Nowak had some inkling of this and, very sensibly, employed a slightly larger string section than might have been expected, but this put the soloist and orchestra on a more equal platform – for this is no Concerto which pits man against beast; it is wholly lyrical. Nowak drew spritely and crisp playing from his band and knew when to hold back to allow for the occasional soloistic flourish, but he never lost the ability, even in the quietest passages, to keep the rhythm and style consistent. Anderson played his own cadenzas which were concise, to the point and totally in a Mozartean style. This was a most distinguished performance even if Nowak, naughty boy, made rather large rallentandi at the ends of the outer movements.

By comparison with this masterwork the 2ndHorn Concerto seemed small beer indeed. Christopher Parkes did what he could with the music, but it doesn’t really allow for much of anything like the virtuosity given to the oboe – in Mozart’s time, even a great player such as Leutgeb, who not only played the instrument but also owned the local cheese shop, playing on a valveless horn couldn’t be expected to achieve the feats that today’s players can realise. But it is a pleasant, lyrical, piece and both soloist and orchestra made the most of it, creating a lovely preface to what followed.

The 8thSymphony of Dvořák is, perhaps, too full of tunes – there seems to be little time to work them all out for they appear almost on top of each other. Nowak directed a very dramaric performance, full of fire and spirit, relishing every twist and turn of the music. The slow movement brought out the most beautiful pianissimo from the strings and, using the most subtle of rubato, Nowak built the phrases with an extra special nobility. The finale, a set of variations like the Eroica, is the most difficult movement to bring off successfully, as it is in Beethoven’s work, but here, employing a faster tempo than normal, the music held together better than I have ever heard it. With playing of the utmost excitement and refinement, this was a performance to savour.

But you’re wondering just how, after a performance of such stature, the same players can top it. The answer tonight was simple: play like demons. And the RPO did. Here was a New World full of drama, tension, passion and tragedy, the only fault being that the first movement exposition wasn’t repeated. As with No.8, Nowak whipped up a frenzy of excitement in the outer movements, but showing the tenderest care in the famous slow movement – gorgeous cor anglais playing from Lauren Weavers – and he wasn’t afraid to slightly play about with the tempo if it suited him to make a musical point.

The RPO is, in my opinion, fast becoming the leading London orchestra for its consistently satisfying programming and playing. Bravo!

Bob Briggs

Back to Top Page
Cumulative Index Page