Manfred, Op.115 – Overture
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64
Vadim Repin (violin)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 30 November, 2007
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Although the programme scored 0 out of 10 for adventurousness (and even coincided key and opus number!), the Royal Festival Hall was virtually full. The Overture from Schumann’s Incidental Music for Byron’s “Manfred” is a masterpiece, not that this was much in evidence in this uncertain and sluggish performance in which impetuosity and ardour surfaced too infrequently.
Daniele Gatti had all three works in his head but not always in his consciousness. Orchestrally, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto flitted between engaging clarity and something less defined. Vadim Repin was in aristocratic form – sweetly expressive and technically immaculate, adding a bit of muscle when required if slightly overdoing intensity and accentuation as the work progressed. The first movement enjoyed bravura and confidentiality, the cadenza integral to the argument, but the very slow tempo for the middle movement (marked Andante) was too indulgent and the ‘presto’ for the finale rendered it as mechanical rather than sparkling; at this rapidity flautist Emily Beynon (presumably her) deserved acknowledgement for tracing Repin with such deftness.
Tchaikovsky 5 raised the stakes, Gatti very involved with the surface of the music – nudging and fluctuating it – if not peering too deeply underneath it. But by the time the enthusiastic applause had died – and the encore that the musicians seemed to have ready hadn’t been played (believed to be Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture and which left unfinished business) – the virtues of what had been an undeniably exciting performance dissipated quickly. But while the symphony was ‘in progress’, its edge, stealth and expanse – as manipulated by Gatti – made a big impression. The first movement could have been heard as having its ruthless moments though (horns losing out to trumpets and trombones) and the slow movement (blessed by a glorious horn solo from either Jacob Slagter or Jasper de Waal) as melodramatic; yet such was Gatti’s conviction, and such was the response from the RCO, that it convinced, even the sudden half-speed slowing in the finale when the movement is at its most potent.
Yet Gatti could also be true to the score’s letter – the very end was swept through in line with Tchaikovsky’s tempo-relation indication. While wondering why some in the audience had to cough as movements end and begin (irrespective of how long any one had taken and ignoring the fact the Gatti offered no pause between them) – the summary is that this Tchaikovsky performance came and went but made a big impression while it was there.