Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi Viktoria Mullova – Dvořák, Brahms & Tchaikovsky

Carnival Overture, Op.92
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64

Viktoria Mullova (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Paavo Järvi

Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel

Reviewed: 16 May, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Dvořák’s joyous homage to Nature positively bristles with spirited melodies and snappy rhythms. Paavo Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra were full of bustling energy and precise ensemble. In fact, a little too fast and furious – Järvi giving few opportunities for the orchestra to relax. The quieter interlude portraying the tranquillity of the Bohemian woods was pushed a little forcibly but the main “peasant fair“ theme was suitably rumbustious.

Viktoria MullovaViktoria Mullova’s Brahms was a curious affair. Joining in the tutti before her first entry and using a score, which she often does now, the first movement seemed lacking in focus and direction. Her richness of tone and technical assurance is taken for granted but at times she seemed hesitant – especially when glancing at the score. Eye contact with Järvi was uncommonly close – as if they were both trying to agree on direction. The non-attributed cadenza was rather long but played with great assurance. The Adagio was better shaped and long-breathed with some felicitous details and sweetness of tone but there was some unwelcome coolness in Mullova’s playing leading to a feeling of detachment, a studied approach that carried into the finale despite much beauty of sound.

Paavo Järvi. ©Mark LyonsTchaikovsky 5, though, was electrifying. The success lay in Järvi’s ability to appreciate the structure of this piece and which, in turns, was exciting, dramatic, lyrical and moving. The drama was never forced, the excitement never artificially pumped up, the Philharmonia Orchestra on absolute peak form. The tension never let up with Järvi going from movement to movement with barely a pause – bringing the welcome bonus of depriving us of between-movement coughing and spluttering.

The Andante cantabile was characterised by a sensitive horn solo from Lasse Mauritzen and some wonderfully ‘free’ playing from the first violins; the thunderous repeats of the fate motif were pushed home with terrifying certainty. The third-movement ‘Waltz’ found Järvi fully exploiting the dance element with delicately pointed dance-rhythms and playing full of colour and capped by a truly exciting finale, Järvi generating huge tension through perfectly judged tempos, building climaxes steadily. Tremendous!

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