Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.97 (Rhenish)

The Night Shift

Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 – Finale
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.97 (Rhenish)

Christian Tetzlaff (violin)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Vladimir Jurowski

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 25 January, 2007
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

An ‘open air’ freshness could be felt throughout this evening with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the warmth with which Vladimir Jurowski and his charges lent these three works made for a spirited evening.

It’s doubtful that Glinka has received too many ‘period’ performances, but with the 150th-anniversary of his death just a month away it was a welcome chance to hear the folksy Kamarinskaya in this guise. Jurowski lent it a nice, reedy wind sound and the orchestra enjoyed the open textures, its first full tutti brightly coloured. The Russian wedding song sparkled, with a well-floated clarinet solo from Antony Pay in response.

Mendelssohn was, perhaps surprisingly, a near-exact contemporary of the Russian composer, and the juxtaposition of his E minor Violin Concerto with Kamarinskaya revealed both as melodic craftsmen. The concerto is of course an extremely popular work, and Christian Tetzlaff treated it with tender loving care. His unforced tone, lightness of touch and lack of mannerisms made for a Classical reading, complemented by Jurowski’s deftly pointed accompaniment. Early on Teztlaff’s eagerness to press ahead had to be drawn-in by the orchestra, but there was a lovely hush before the second theme. The violinist used noticeably more vibrato than the orchestral strings, a contrast made all the more obvious in the slow movement, and he employed a fuller tone in the first movement cadenza and the closing bars, enjoying the composer’s figuration in the flight to the finish. As an encore he offered a beautifully poised ‘Bourrée’ from one of Bach’s unaccompanied partitas.

Jurowski bounded on after the interval to conduct a winning performance of Schumann’s wonderfully affirmative ‘Rhenish’ Symphony, its exuberant opening movement given plenty of rhythmic bounce. A nicely lilting scherzo found the Ländler given deliberate but effective rubato, while the central intermezzo found its warmth of character through the excellent wind section, with Jurowski barely using the baton save for dynamic and phrase shaping.

The brass excelled in the ‘cathedral’ movement, the sonorous sound all the more striking when complemented by the open strings. This dramatic, darkly tinged antecedent to the finale was answered with bright cross-rhythms once, Jurowski continually finding the detail in Schumann’s contrapuntal writing.

The ‘Rhenish’ and the finale of the violin concerto were repeated in the Night Shift concert, the third such vehicle from the OAE to late-night concert-goers. The informal atmosphere extended to the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer before and after, where the Ronnie Scott Club’s pianist James Pearson offered tasteful and florid improvisations on themes from the Schumann – a nice effect for those still humming the melodies from the earlier concert. Afterwards he was on hand with other jazz musicians for those sufficiently inspired by the OAE’s rendition to stay on for a nightcap – and the convivial atmosphere confirmed this set-up to be a most successful and original approach to a musical evening.

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