Philharmonia/Dutoit Vadim Repin

The Flying Dutchman – Overture
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47
Concerto for Orchestra

Vadim Repin (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Charles Dutoit

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 28 February, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Despite the fact that Charles Dutoit has recently conducted a ‘Ring’ cycle and “The Flying Dutchman” in Buenos Aires, there was little evidence here of any real affinity with Wagner’s music, a flaccid performance of the ‘Dutchman’ overture that was routine with tension sagging in the quieter sections, ragged wind and brass chording and little in the way of sustained momentum.

Vadim Repin then delivered a man-sized Sibelius concerto, although he was severely hamstrung by Dutoit’s fidgety, lacklustre accompaniment, which paid scant attention to his soloist and appeared to have little sense of how one thing leads to another. Repin was therefore at his unencumbered best in the first movement cadenza. The atmospheric slow movement drew some fine wind playing but, perversely, it was Repin who spoiled the mood, constantly breaking the line and chopping up phrases in unexpected places. The finale was taken at a fair old lick – no sense of a “Polonaise for polar bears” here – and although Repin negotiated the stratospheric passages with confidence, there was little sense of a sustained drive towards an inevitable conclusion.

Far better was the Bartók; Finnish and Hungarian share a common linguistic root (Finno-Uggric), so perhaps there is a subtle logic to programming Sibelius and Bartók! With the Philharmonia once again playing with something like its customary polish, there was much to enjoy. Dutoit gave a much clearer lead than in the Sibelius, directing with assurance and clarity, but the account didn’t quite add up, for although individual details were well touched-in, especially in the three central movements, the longer-term symphonic tensions of the outer movements received less than their due. The finale, here treated as a showpiece, was taken marginally too fast to allow for clean articulation from the strings, the central fugue needed more fibre for its tensions to emerge fully, and those shadowy, scurrying string figures just before the close lacked any sense of seismic pressures gradually building up to the final eruption. It was all a bit reminiscent of those boxers who have all the moves and fancy footwork but can’t quite land the killer punch.

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