LSO/Nikolaj Znaider – Mozart Violin Concertos & Tchaikovsky 4

Violin Concerto in B-flat, K207
Violin Concerto in D, K218
Symphony No.4 in F-minor, Op.36

London Symphony Orchestra
Nikolaj Znaider (violin)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 18 December, 2016
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Nikolaj ZnaiderPhotograph: Lars GundersenTwo Mozart Violin Concertos might seem a double deal too much, but Nikolai Znaider and about thirty friends from the LSO (those string-players who could stand, did so), including pairs of horns and oboes, made generally good work of them. In K207 the outer movements were sprightly, the execution needed to be agile, and it was, not least from ‘first among equals’ Znaider, technically flawless and directing occasionally (otherwise it was Roman Simovic literally leading) and unfurling the galant middle movement with intimacy. This attractive and entertaining piece was followed by a considerable step-up to K218, scored similarly, and although there was plenty of brilliance this music’s deeper seam of expression wasn’t fully explored, particularly in the Andante cantabile that flowed just a bit too easily. We were kept in the dark over ownership of the cadenzas; short and stylish in K207, less so and longer in K218.

Tchaikovsky’s Fate-fuelled Fourth Symphony proved to be an underwhelming experience, masterpiece though it is. The opening brass fanfares were less than imposing and the subsequent tempo sluggish. Very musical, mind, but it rarely ignited emotionally, and not helped by coarse-sounding trumpets and domineering, tone-less timpani. The balletic episodes of the first movement came off best but tension sagged elsewhere, and the coda was mostly staid until an increase in pace came across as merely hollow. The middle movements fared better, the Andante, led-off by an eloquent oboe solo (woodwind and horn principals, including the not-listed Andrew Marriner, clarinet, contributed much distinction throughout), and suddenly some soul was found, the cellos sounding especially gorgeous, followed by a Scherzo that enjoyed a light pizzicato touch and bluff humour. The Finale, although trenchant, was also percussively punchy and didn’t add up to a huge amount, save the really hard-hitting moments did come across as a ominous slap in the face, Fate returning, before victory is signalled. The ultimate chord was truly resounding however … so maybe something greater will come of Znaider’s future LSO Mozart/Tchaikovsky concerts, the next due on May 14.

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