Music composed in their teenage and early-adult years by child prodigies provided the programme of this first orchestral concert (there are also three chamber-music programmes) of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall headed by Pinchas Zukerman.
Mendelssohn’s attractive one-movement B-minor String Symphony was the opener. Conducting without a baton Zukerman showed great rapport with the RPO, the somewhat sombre opening theme expanding well into the clear yet warm acoustic allowing contrapuntal and dynamic effects to register. Notable was the section towards the end where the violas find themselves in the thematic spotlight and where the expressivity of the playing was remarkable.
In Mozart’s K364, from their subdued joint entry Zukerman and Viviane Hagner displayed great connection throughout, she wonderfully plaintive yet precise and beautifully contrasted with Zukerman’s freer contribution and consolatory tone; there was a palpable sense of spontaneity in their responses, supported by mellow horns and reassuringly firm double basses. The subdued intensity of the middle movement was treasurable, although perhaps the Finale was a little staid, but all the technical challenges were met with a minimum of fuss.
For the ‘Reformation’ Symphony, this time with baton, Zukerman brought out all the contrasts and complex interplay Mendelssohn develops, those revolving round the ‘Dresden Amen’ deftly handled, and the trumpets and trombones were impressive in their fanfares – not for the first time did one consider that Wagner knew this Symphony and was influenced by it when writing certain passages in Parsifal. The Finale, including that reassuringly confident sounding of the ‘Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’ chorale, was full of majestic vigour, bringing the work to a satisfying close.