Favourite Classics – Melkonian Foundation (15 April)

Spartacus – Adagio from Spartacus
Romeo and Juliet – Dance of the Knights
Let us fly away
Andante spianato et Grande polonaise
Symphony No.40 in G minor, K550
Variations on an original theme (Enigma)

Seta Tanyel (piano)

Girls’ Choir of St Clement Danes School

Philharmonia Orchestra
Vartan Melkonian

Reviewed by: Timothy Ball

Reviewed: 15 April, 2003
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

Vartan Melkonian’s background and story are quite remarkable. Brought up in The Birds’ Nest Orphanage in Lebanon, his diverse activities in the UK have included being a club singer, a producer and a television director, contributing perhaps most notably to “No Easy Walk to Freedom” – a documentary about Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

He also composes – a short example was included in this concert – and his symphony, Impressions of Oman, was recorded by the LSO under Melkonian’s direction.

This popular programme was well attended and warmly greeted by families and young people who may not be regular concert-goers. It was heartening to see them supporting the concert – the proceeds from which go to the Melkonian Foundation’s Orphans Fund and The Birds’ Nest Orphanage – and enjoying the Philharmonia’s spirited playing on what must have been very limited rehearsal time. All credit to the players for participating in this humanitarian cause.

The strings enjoyed the ’big tune’ of Khachaturian’s lush Adagio, and the Prokofiev excerpt was pointed and incisive. The Girls’ Choir of St Clement Danes School then sang an arrangement of a song written by Melkonian when he was twelve years old. Originally unaccompanied, this was given in a harmonised version with attractive orchestration. With its pop-like percussion beat, one might well imagine this as a successful fundraising single.

Seta Tanyel provided perhaps the most substantial musical rewards with her alternately delicate and spirited playing of Chopin. Any imprecision of ensemble between soloistand orchestra was more than made up for by the enthusiasm of all involved.

More meaty fare was supplied after the interval by Mozart’s 40th symphony and the ’Enigma’ Variations. Once again, one admired the laudable playing of the orchestra. This was not an occasion to nit-pick over musical minutiae, but rather to applaud the charitable endeavours of the Melkonian Foundation, the enterprise of its founder and the willingness of the Philharmonia to support this philanthropic venture.

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