Symphonies of Wind Instruments [Original Version]
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35
Scheherazade – Symphonic Suite, Op.35
Vadim Repin (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 20 January, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s series of Russian masterpieces kicked off with a splendidly taut account of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (in its original version from 1920). Dedicated to the memory of the recently-deceased Debussy, this piece is scored for woodwind and brass. Dutoit drew fine, crisp playing from the RPO members, delineating the contrasting sonorities and varying tempos of Stravinsky’s deceptively complex score.
Vadim Repin’s formidable technique needs no introduction. He makes the most difficult passages in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (once thought unplayable) seem ridiculously easy; the double- and triple-stopping in the first movement was nonchalantly negotiated. And yet this was a performance to admire rather than to love. Repin’s interpretation was, in many ways, quintessentially Russian. There was an absolute refusal to sentimentalise or hyper-exaggerate, which was laudable, especially in the second-movement Canzonetta in which Repin’s sweetness of tone and firmness of line brought out the song-like qualities of Tchaikovsky’s writing. The outer movements, though, could feel a little austere at times with a particularly melancholic air to the first movement. The finale, though exciting, felt a little straitlaced, lacking the last ounce of joyful abandon. There was admirably fresh and bright support from conductor and orchestra throughout.
Dutoit and the RPO had the full measure of the colourful Scheherazade. Beautifully paced and delicately balanced, Dutoit’s control of structure allowed climaxes to unfold naturally and without exaggeration, particularly towards the end of the exciting finale. There was genuine affection and feel for the sensuousness in the music which made this rendition so enjoyable. There were some outstanding solo contributions from the wind section as well as leader Clio Gould’s warm, expressive violin tone. Her touching solo at the end radiated peace and calm to conclude a hugely satisfying performance.