RPO / Little, Cadogan Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's new concert season opened with two peaks of the classical violin concerto repertoire, each prefaced by a late-Romantic English string miniature. Flattering acoustics in the Cadogan Hall ensured that every player in the chamber-size ensemble from the RPO, the resident orchestra, was heard to advantage.

Tasmin Little was the charismatic soloist in Bach's E major Concerto and Mozart's Concerto no 5. She addressed both full of heart and cheerfully untroubled by findings of the "original instruments" group. Her swooping portamenti and a generous vibrato had no truck with forensic authenticity. She brought out the essence of the works through pure musicianship.

From the start of the Bach concerto, it was clear Little regarded herself as "first among equals", unobtrusively allowing members of the ensemble to take centre stage when the melodic interest was in their domain. Some fleeting technical insecurity from Little in the first movement failed to detract from an extrovert reading of great sweep in which the contemplative Adagio was awarded due gravity, and the exuberant Finale brought crisply articulated playfulness as well as grace and charm.

Little was on top form in Mozart's A major Concerto. She bravely gave full weight to the pause before her first solo in the opening movement, generating expectation, fulfilled by a display of polished artistry. The "Turkish" elements in the central passage of the Finale were infectiously "pesante", in stark contrast to the insouciant urbanity of the surrounding Minuet.

The orchestra came into their own in an affectionate account of Elgar's Serenade for Strings, striking the right note of wistful melancholy in the central "Larghetto", and offered a rare opportunity to hear Finzi's Romance, an intensely lyrical string miniature, lovingly moulded by RPO leader Clio Gould.

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