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?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
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.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn