Beethoven Chamber Orchestra at Rosslyn Hill Chapel – Bach & Tchaikovsky – Ani Batikian plays Arutiunian’s Violin Concerto

Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G, BWV1048*
Orchestral Suite No.3 in D, BWV1068 – Air
Violin Concerto
Souvenir de Florence, Op.70

Ani Batikian (violin)

Beethoven Chamber Orchestra
Patrick Noronha*
Santiago Mantas

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 27 October, 2016
Venue: Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, London NW3

Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012)Familiar music by popular composers surrounded the quite unfamiliar work by the Armenian master Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012) in a programme which opened with the Beethoven Chamber Orchestra’s founder, Patrick Noronha, directing a spirited account of Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto, the ensemble entirely of soloists, without continuo – the absence of which enabled attention to be focused on the incomparable contrapuntal part-writing. In the bars joining the movements, leader Tetsuumi Negata provided a suitably brief cadenzetta accompagnata.

Santiago Mantas, succeeding Noronha, prepared an engrossing reading of the famous Bach ‘Air’, beautifully paced and with orchestral strength enlarged, providing an excellent prelude to Arutiunian’s Violin Concerto – a four-movement piece, and fully the equal of his occasionally played Trumpet Concerto, a score which has always implied, because of its inherent quality, that other music by this composer might be worth investigating.

Arutiunian’s Violin Concerto is a splendid composition, quite engrossing in its continuity and character. Although there is no doubt as to the composer’s ethnicity, Arutiunian’s Violin Concerto is no piece of musical travelogue, but a work that holds the attention throughout its 25 minutes. It is exceptionally well written for the soloist, who naturally dominates the music – apart from the opening paragraph (for orchestra) of the beautifully contemplative Adagio – the violinist eventually entering with a long solo passage.

Such is the immediacy of impact of this enthralling work that one is astonished at its relative neglect – allowing that it dates from as recently as 1988. The performance of Ani Batikian was utterly compelling – she is an exceptionally gifted musician and a fine player indeed, and we must applaud her enterprise in bringing this significant work to London. Her well-merited encore was an arrangement of an Armenian folk-song.

After the interval, Mantas and the BCO gave an extraordinarily impressive account of Tchaikovsky’s Opus 70 sextet, one of this composer’s most original masterpieces (certainly in the version for full strings) in terms of structure, symphonic development and (in the first movement especially) texture. The playing was fully committed and wholly accomplished throughout, the result bringing a deeply satisfying conclusion to an impressive programme.

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