Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Dohnányi, Tchaikovsky & Stravinsky

Symphonic Minutes, Op.36
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35
Symphony in C

Jack Liebeck (violin)

Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Russell Keable

Reviewed by: Bob Briggs

Reviewed: 20 January, 2010
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Ernő Dohnányi (1877-1960)It’s a mystery why the music of Ernő Dohnányi (1877-1960) isn’t heard more in this country. It’s splendid stuff as this Suite proves. The five short movements are packed with interesting themes, fabulous orchestration and a real heart of gold. The Kensington Symphony players truly enjoyed the many moods, from a very European set of variations to some wild gypsy-fiddling in the finale. Dohnányi wrote some very fine music but he isn’t a nationalist, his leaning was always European, and perhaps this has gone against him, but it is to be hoped that this fine performance will have tweaked some people’s curiosity; the KSO players might like to investigate Dohnányi’s superb Second Symphony.

Jack Liebeck just seems to get better and better. His account of the Tchaikovsky Concerto was very intelligent, and, together with sensitive and careful direction from Russell Keable, he brought out the yearning soul of the work, through the judicious choice of some deliberate tempos, but still had time for fireworks. This was what impressed for the thought, not to mention the decision, to take their time over the music allowed for a gorgeous Canzonetta and the finale was held in check until all was let rip for the coda and the performance ended in a blaze. Liebeck gave us a little Bach as an encore.

Stravinsky said that “music expresses nothing” and in his Symphony in C he goes a long way to proving that a 30-minute work for orchestra can exist purely for the sound it makes. This is an odd piece – part naughty-20s-Paris, part serious-neo-classical – which moulds and shapes disparate elements into a strangely hypnotic and compelling piece of art with something special happening within the processes. Keable understands exactly how this music works and he brought about a fine performance which almost convinced that maybe Stravinsky had something after all. But then he wrote Symphony in Three Movements and upset the applecart!

Russell Keable and his Kensington Symphony Orchestra can be relied upon to introduce us to new things and make us think anew about old friends.

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