Elgar & Vaughan Williams in Australia

Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.61
Vaughan Williams
Symphony No.4 in F minor

Tasmin Little (violin)

West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Yan Pascal Tortelier

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 9 June, 2007
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

Yan Pascal TortelierA concert of extremes, with Elgar’s Violin Concerto sounding more prolix than passionate and a powerful, satisfyingly compact performance of Vaughan Williams’s Fourth Symphony.

The Elgar was beautiful – but nothing more. Tasmin Little was never less than eloquent, her tone often (and unexpectedly) rich and full but lacking bite at crucial moments (though parts of the slow movement were sublime, as was the finale’s cadenza). That Little was totally immersed in the music cannot be doubted; when not playing, she swayed to the music and often seemed to be singing under her breath. Yan Pascal Tortelier made the most of Elgar’s lush score by eliciting some beautifully balanced playing from the orchestra; the overall tempo, too, was well-judged. But where was the tension?

The Vaughan Williams was another story altogether, with Tortelier (conducting from memory) seeming to make up for the lack of intensity in the Elgar by giving us a double-dose here. The electricity in every section of the orchestra was palpable, Tortelier’s balletic direction channelling it into something utterly spectacular.

There was a momentary distraction in the opening movement as the bridge snapped out from under the strings of a first violin, but this was quickly forgotten in the ensuing excitement. The Andante moderato featured some superb solo playing, particularly from the woodwinds, echoed by equally fine work in the trio of the scherzo by the bassoons and tuba, while Tortelier skilfully integrated the diverse elements in the final movement so as to maximise the cumulative effect. Children in the choir stalls above the orchestra leaned forward as though transfixed by the sound and fury below – which fact seems to sum up the effect of this extraordinary performance perfectly.

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