Beyond the first movement's bittersweet dialogue (and a few patches of tonal discoloration from the soloist) came the deeply confessional Andante, a sure-fire rival to Barber's celebrated Adagio for strings that inspired a molten stream of sumptuous tone. The oboe sang first then, mid-way through the movement, Perlman took over, his playing as rich, vibrant and finely graded as any heard on the South Bank in recent years. Audience reaction between the second and third movements suggested widespread involvement, whereas the quietly virtuosic Presto in moto perpetuo finale (always a bit of a musical let-down) had Perlman spinning a quick-fire spiccato.
Beyond the interval, Tchaikovsky's Concerto was graced by a shapely orchestral introduction and a soaring solo entrance. It was a regal display which, although minutely flawed, suggested a wider range of colour than I remembered from Perlman's recordings of the work. In fact, once back home, I revisited his 1978 EMI CD (under Ormandy) for that capricious variation on the main theme that falls mid-way between the first movement's central tutti and confirmed that the concert performance had indeed been much more playful. The finale, too, donned a genuine smile - in the recurring Russian dance motive, for example, where Perlman's chuckling characterisation and devil- may-care spontaneity paid highest dividends. Come to think of it, that's precisely what impressed me most about the concert: Perlman's new-found sense of daring, his willingness to "let go" and indulge the moment - something I hadn't always felt about his older performances and recordings. And to turn dare-devil at 50, now that must be worth celebrating.
Perlman plays Sibelius and Mendelssohn 7.30pm tonight RFH, SBC, London SE1 (0171-928 8800)Reuse content