MUSIC / Poetic fervour: Anthony Payne on the RPO at the Royal Festival Hall and the ECO at the Barbican

At a time of increasing specialisation in the art of musical performance, Sir Charles Mackerras has pursued a career of astonishing catholicity of taste. He was looking anew at the problems of baroque performance before the authenticity movement established itself; he established the operas of Janacek in this country; and, more recently, has performed and recorded Delius with poetic fervour - all this while continuing to conduct the standard symphonic and operatic repertories of the last few centuries.

But Sir Charles is far from a jack of all styles, as his splendid Festival Hall programme with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last week proved. He gives the impression of being a specialist in whatever he does, and Janacek, Sullivan, Tchaikovsky and Brahms were all focused with the most precise care. Sullivan's cello concerto was performed with affection by Raphael Wallfisch, but remains something of a curiosity, lacking the memorability and structural mastery of that other product of the composer's early years, the Symphony in E minor.

Typically, the programme opened with Janacek's Taras Bulba, and Sir Charles drew a fresh sound from his players - wild dancing, heroic strife and final jubilation were all brought vividly to life. Local incidents were characterised with intensity, and Janacek's extraordinary continuities were well mastered.

Sir Charles and his players underlined Wallfisch's poetry in Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with elegant, vivacious playing, and then crowned the evening with a splendid Brahms Third Symphony. Once more, Sir Charles created a new sound world, clarifying thematic substance and harmonic ground swell, judging tempos unerringly to provide swift purpose without disrupting Brahms's autumnal

poetry.

Brahms's textural requirements were again met with clarity and warmth in the opening programme of the English Chamber Orchestra's series Schumann & friends at the Barbican on Monday. Raymond Leppard characterised the Variations on the St Anthony Chorale with charm, and his players created a glowing range of colours, attacking Brahms's rhythmic complexities with precision and due weight of tone.

The links in Brahms's subtle chain of tensions and contrasts were forged with a symphonic cogency which was only partly recaptured in Schumann's Spring Symphony. Tempos were kept briskly moving without missing the tenderness of the music's many lyric side-paths and intimacies. But the orchestral sound was not always as well integrated as it had been earlier, with strings intermittently scrappy and wind timbres not always blending.

Finally, we heard playing of considerable joie de vivre from Richard Stoltzman in Weber's Second Clarinet Concerto and Mendelssohn's Concertstusk in F minor for clarinet and basset-horn where he was partnered by Thea King. His big vibrato made tonal integration a little problematic in the Mendelssohn, but the virtuosity and generosity of spirit were infectious.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices