Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Julian Rachlin (violin)

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Herbert Blomstedt

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 25 April, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

This was a well-balanced programme of two circa 45-minute popular pieces. Some sort of entrée would have been nice though (Mendelssohn, Schumann) to establish things before the concerto, although the sylvan woodwinds and lithe strings (antiphonal violins) introduced the Beethoven with an immediate reminder of this orchestra’s always-welcome tradition.

Julian Rachlin, not for the first time, suffered some intonational problems and technical awkwardness (although less than previously). Nevertheless this was an unsettled, studied and applied performance that rarely, if ever, entered naturally into the striding heroism and lyrical balm of this spacious concerto. Herbert Blomstedt was an attentive accompanist (he needed to be) but Rachlin’s rather shrill upper register and sometimes-laboured playing (the unnamed cadenza, Kreisler’s in fact, being a prime example) simply failed to penetrate to the music’s core and bind this work as its dimensions demand.

Tchaikovsky’s personal and fateful symphony seemed less so on this occasion. Blomstedt, now able to return to cohesive music-making, certainly made Tchaikovsky seem a greater symphonist, in structural terms, than is sometimes the case, but the voltage was a tad too low for the first movement, although one admired Blomstedt’s thought-through view. Some steely-toned trumpets threatened to imbalance the homogeneous Leipzig sound. The middle movements fared best, an impromptu ’Canzone’ and a light-on-its-feet, articulate scherzo. Both movements were beautifully done, yet while one can only be admiring of the musicianship, there was a lack of emotional identity at times.

Just as an ’overture’ was missed, so was an encore.

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