Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture [Revised Version]
Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.63
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36
Sakaya Shoji (violin)
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 27 June, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Sadly Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 never really took flight. Sakaya Shoji has a secure technique, the rippling passagework of the first movement holding no fears, barely a note out of place. If a degree of technique had been sacrificed for a tad more expression then results would have been more enjoyable, but in the end this was a rather unvaried and routine performance, the work’s sense of disquiet totally bypassed. Shoji wasn’t helped by Temirkanov’s lethargic conducting, most apparent in the castanet-coloured dances of the finale, which remained resolutely earthbound.
Sleepy horns ushered in the ‘Fate’ fanfare at the opening of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth symphony. Not a good omen and so it proved to be. Temirkanov’s tendency to adopt uneven tempos played havoc with the shape of the first movement, robbing it of urgency and tragic inevitability. There was plenty of excitement generated before the final outbursts but by then all momentum had been lost. More of this idiosyncratic approach marred the Andantino – after a beautifully phrased oboe solo from Christopher Cowie, the lovely string melody which follows was curiously deformed and interrupted the rhythmic flow. Only in the scherzo did things start to improve with delightfully nimble pizzicatos and a real air of joy from the woodwinds in the rollicking peasant song. The finale was thrillingly fast and controlled, the Philharmonia at last coming alive. Rich strings and brass, which at last developed some bite in the return of the ‘Fate’ motif, brought the symphony to a rousing conclusion.