Mostly Mozart – Bach & Brahms

Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G, BWV1048
Violin Concerto in G, K216
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Jennifer Pike (violin)

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Harry Christophers

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 3 August, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

For the penultimate concert in this year’s “Mostly Mozart” series, the Brahms stuck out as an unusual choice, signifying as it did a veering away from the purely Classical and into the Romantic. For the most part the contrast was welcome, given that the performance of Mozart was so lacklustre.

The Brandenburg Concerto’s opening movement, played at a leisurely Allegro, ticked along. The results were pleasing. Occasionally, the violins’ sound, both here and in the finale, wasn’t ideally crisp. Throughout, lower strings and the harpsichord continuo were a constant and strong foundation

In 2002, at the age of 12, Jennifer Pike became the youngest-ever winner of the “BBC Young Musician of the Year” competition. Her performance of Mozart’s G major Violin Concerto was very disappointing and lacked tonal and dynamic variegation. The music should sing! A sense of the dramatic would have given the first movement some much-needed occasion. The choice of anachronistic cadenzas (by Sam Franko, maybe?) left one puzzled. The one for the first movement was too arduous and long, Pike struggling with the double-stopping. There was much more to admire in the orchestra: the sections of dialogue amongst the woodwind, for example. The cheeky Mozart almost came through in the finale in the sprightly pizzicato episode and in the pleasing playing from the horns.

Brahms was terrified by the prospect of writing his First Symphony. For him, the giant shadow cast by Beethoven was too intimidating, and so it took over twenty years, from the first sketch to the finished product, for this great work to emerge and here found the ASMF on form, though the ultimate coda was wayward in tempo and bombast, the timpanist seemingly taking over.

Up to that point an excellent body of sound was produced and the gathering of momentum at the launch of the first-movement Allegro (exposition repeat observed) was well-executed. The strings sang for Christophers in the Andante sostenuto and the woodwinds brought out all the textural detail of the music.

Christophers brought out the youthfulness of Brahms with the third movement and kept the finale on the move; it was uplifting and triumphant.

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