Audiences are used to music of the age of romanticism emerging from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, but that of the pioneering Russian composer Mikhail Glinka still came as a surprise tonight - to the players as much as the listeners, it seemed, judging by the inhibited unison strings at the supposedly stirring start of Kamarinskaya. The awkward way in which it lay actually reclaimed the originality of a piece that kick-started Russia's classical tradition, and the brassy interjections that tore through the radically repetitive variations later brought the performance to a state of wakefulness, if not excitement.
The latter quality emerged straight away in the Mendelssohn "Violin Concerto". Fast and highly strung, it showed a tension between vibrant soloist and non-vibrato orchestra that became creative as Christian Tetzlaff's energised attitude spread to the conductor Vladimir Jurowski and the orchestra. His precise, intense style, miles away from the Russian and American violin traditions that dominate the international scene, swept through the opening movement with ever-growing momentum. Best were the drops to a focused pianissimo that drew the entire audience into the heart of the smallest sound.
Tetzlaff took the central part of the "Andante" to the expressive edge without the least distortion. The orchestra continued to respond as though this music, too, was fresh to everybody - this time with positive results.
In the Rhenish Symphony, Jurowski dealt positively with Schumann's own awkwardnesses of orchestral balance, bringing out counterpoints rather than holding back for the sake of clarity. The outcome was a rousing reminder that this score contains some of the most thrilling sonorities in the romantic repertoire.
Jurowski was able to instil vitality into the phrasing, not only of the melodic lines but at all levels of the texture. The music never sank into the dense mass that all too often occurs in Schumann symphonies. Another, subtler distinction of the performance was that its constant onward movement could be enhanced by occasional moments of holding back the pace just enough to generate a sense of suppleness. Schumann's lengthy, not to say laborious, developments of short phrases took on a heady cumulative character that gave the eventual climaxes a real sense of arrival.Reuse content