Violin Concerto in D
Concerto for Orchestra
Viktoria Mullova (violin)
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 4 February, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
The dance overtones of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto are immediately apparent (no wonder Balanchine choreographed it). More so than the Benjamin, which was created for dance! From Viktoria Mullova though, the Stravinsky lost some of its dance-like qualities in a performance that was beautifully shaped, delicately phrased but sometimes lacking bite and wit (the last movement particularly). Spacious tempos paid dividends in the slower, inner movements in which Mullova’s lyrical ‘laid back’ approach uncovered passages of real beauty. Sympathetic support from Salonen and the Philharmonia made this work very much a dialogue between soloist and orchestra with alert and characterful playing from the wind section.
Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra brought out playing of great refinement from the Philharmonia – from the ominous opening to the headlong rush of the close, this was an immaculately prepared and balanced performance. Again the woodwind section stood out with playing of vibrancy and colour, especially in ‘Game of Pairs’. At times, though, the playing could almost be too smooth, lacking the pungency and edge which brings Bartók’s folk-melodies to life. The death-song of the ‘Elegy’ may have cried out, but the lyrical theme of ‘Intermezzo interrotto’ could have been more idiomatic. The finale, though, played at breakneck speed, was full of wit and life and brought the performance to a rousing conclusion.