Boston Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis Nikolaj Znaider – Mozart & Elgar

Symphony No.38 in D, K504 (Prague)
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.61

Nikolaj Znaider (violin)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 14 January, 2010
Venue: Boston Symphony Hall

Nikolaj ZnaiderThis year is the 100th-anniversary of Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto, a work premiered by Fritz Kreisler and conducted by the composer at a concert given by the London Philharmonic Society in Queen’s Hall on 10 November 1910. In that performance Kreisler played the 1741 Guarnerius “del Gesù”, a violin now owned by the Royal Danish Theatre and which has been on extended loan to Nikolaj Znaider since the beginning of 2007. This year, Znaider is celebrating the concerto’s centennial by recording the work (with Staatskapelle Dresden under Sir Colin Davis) and playing it on tour, using the same instrument played by Kreisler in the premiere.

Perhaps because of its length (about 50-55 minutes) Elgar’s grandly-scaled violin concerto is not often programmed. Prior to this concert, the Boston Symphony Orchestra had given a total of four performances, the last in 1984 under Seiji Ozawa and featuring former concertmaster Joseph Silverstein as soloist.Sir Colin Davis. Photograph: Alberto Venzago / LSOMaking his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut in this performance, Nikolaj Znaider appeared extraordinarily calm and confident as he delivered a captivating account of this great Romantic piece, one of Elgar’s longest orchestral works.

From the unforgettable violin entrance in the opening Allegro through the glorious finale, Znaider delivered a technically flawless, deeply committed performance, marked by great poise and wonderful sweetness of tone. His virtuosic playing rose to its greatest heights in his impassioned account of the expansive yet intimate slow movement. But there was plenty of marvelous playing in the first movement too. The most thrilling moments of the finale were in the heartfelt rendition of the long accompanied cadenza, with its muted, magical ‘thrumming’ in the orchestral strings. Znaider’s unusually high level of concentration and beautifully commanding playing, along with Colin Davis’s warm and understanding conducting, made this performance a compelling and moving experience.

Before intermission, Davis gave an alert and perceptive reading of Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony, played with fine spontaneity and polish by the BSO musicians.

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