Live review Dvorak Symphonies: LPO; Philharmonia RFH, London
'Tetzlaff and Welser-Most transformed a war-horse into a thoroughbred'
Friday 01 March 1996
OK, we know that speed isn't everything, but in the case of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, faster tempos helped Christian Tetzlaff and Welser-Most transform a dignified war-horse into a high-performance thoroughbred. Tetzlaff spun a bright thread of tone that suggested Gidon Kremer with sang-froid. His soft playing was remarkable and lost nothing in terms of colour or substance, even when tapered to a whisper. He also performed a lively transcription (his own) of the extended "fiddle'n'timps" cadenza that Beethoven originally wrote for his piano version of the Concerto. Everything shone afresh and when it came to the dancing Rondo, the message really hit home: Beethoven's Violin Concerto is a sunny, high-spirited dialogue and light years removed from the moss-covered monolith that certain more feted players inflict on us. Audience response made an encore inevitable. Tetzlaff treated us to a wistful account of the Largo from Bach's third solo Sonata.
Welser-Most's Dvorak No 7 was similarly invigorating. Again, the argument had real style, especially in the first movement, where the line habitually changed colour but the pulse never faltered. The poco adagio was viewed very much "of a piece", while the last two movements were favoured with lilting rubato. It was both more polished and rather more confident than the reading of the Eighth Symphony that Nicholas Michalakis had given with the Philharmonia the night before - though that too showed imagination. True, there were minor shortcomings: the choral-like introduction was a little prosaic, parts of the finale were too fast for comfort and there was a distracting hiatus prior to the third movement's Trio section. But the Adagio was beautifully handled - not least the expressive swerve of the opening bars and the deathly calm as the music suddenly darkens half- way through and the horn announces a sinister transformation of the principal theme.
First impressions of Michalakis suggest modesty and a certain impatience to get things going. His concert opened with an athletic rendition of Strauss's Don Juan, healthy of countenance if momentarily fazed during the love music. Next, he led a sympathetic accompaniment for Nikolai Demidenko's rather belligerent account of the Schumann Concerto, a pernickety, impulsive affair with loud passage-work and a brittle tone. The Dvorak No 8, however, was interesting enough to register Michalakis among the current lists of talented up-and-comers.
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