Philharmonia Orchestra/Marin Vadim Repin – Berlioz, Lalo & Prokofiev

Overture, Le carnaval romain, Op.9
Symphonie espagnole, Op.21
Symphony No.5 in B flat, Op.100

Vadim Repin (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Ion Marin

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 17 February, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

A “bronchial infection” prevented Gustavo Dudamel travelling and Ion Marin stepped in.

Ion Marin. Photograph: ionmarin.comThere was a change to the programme: the Berlioz for Antonio Estévez’s Mediodía en el Llano. Berlioz’s overture draws on music from his opera “Benvenuto Cellini”. The cor anglais solo was a wonderful moment in an otherwise meandering and brash account.

Lalo’s piece for “solo violin soaring over the rigid form of an old symphony” found Vadim Repin’s platform manner unobtrusive, his unimpeachable playing bringing out the music’s character, his engagement with the Spanish rhythms injecting life into the performance. The ‘Scherzo’ was light on its feet, Repin finding subtle intensity. Shining like a beacon in the ‘Intermezzo’, he was smooth before the final melancholic phrases. Repin was playful in the finale, enjoying the left-hand pizzicato dialogue with the harp.

The Philharmonia has played Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony quite often recently. The commitment of the playing was undeniable, with the strings to the fore in attack mode and the brass, whilst not overpowering, still very present. However, the opening themes in the first movement lacked expression, contrasts and conflucts made little of. Woodwinds and horns did provide pertinent sardonic contributions in the scherzo but there was little atmosphere.

The strings were mellow and lush in the Adagio but the finale needed more control to keep it bubbling along. There was some folksy charm to the opening ideas but the rest beat a weary tread and the final, postive bars were a damp squib. Matters were perhaps not helped by a probable shortage of rehearsal time: the Philharmonia seemed on autopilot, Marin was swaggering on the podium and flicking his polished hair over his ears.

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