Philharmonia Orchestra/Kreizberg – 24 March

William Tell – Overture
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Janine Jansen (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 24 March, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

If concerts were described in culinary terms, this popular programme might qualify as meat and two veg. The paprika in the mix was the welcome return of Janine Jansen.

It would be a hard heart indeed which did not respond to Jansen’s way with the Bruch, which came across with all the intensity of first love and rekindled one’s affection for a piece which can sound hackneyed. Jansen commands a big sound – which given Kreizberg’s no-holds-barred accompaniment, she needed – and which still manages to fall easily on the ear. What was particularly notable was her variety of tone and vibrato – otherwise-excellent violinists can offer unvaried all-purpose high-pressure intensity – and Jansen is never afraid to colour her tone. This performance was as memorable for whispered half-tones as for high-jinks. There was also a wonderful sense of interplay with the orchestra.

Kreizberg conducted the whole programme from memory. If not the most searching of interpreters, Kreizberg is an extremely fine conductor. His excitable podium manner may strike some as over-demonstrative but it is generally dictated by the music and there is always a clear relationship between podium and what comes back from the orchestra.

In the Tchaikovsky first movement there was a tendency to be over-forceful, which was thrown into sharp relief by the idiomatic and sensitive bassoon solo in the backwash from the movement’s triple-forte climax. Suddenly the music had a heart whereas much of what had gone before had been merely efficient. The insertion of the ’traditional’ pause before the movement’s final plunge into the abyss seemed curiously old-fashioned. The slow movement benefited from excellent oboe and bassoon solos from Gordon Hunt and Robin O’Neill respectively. Despite Kreizberg’s excitable podium manner the pizzicato third movement and the exuberant finale were moderately paced, precision rather than animal excitement being the order of the day; and he found a certain delicacy in the finale’s quieter moments.

William Tell received a crisp, well-drilled performance, the divisi cellos at the opening distinguishing themselves though David Watkin’s initial solo was over assertive; curiously this was the quality needed from the trumpet in the famous (Lone Ranger) final section. It’s not often you get a shrinking violet first-trumpet!

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