Sinaisky conducts the RCM Symphony Orchestra

Cosi fan tutte – Overture
Ch’io mi scordi de te, K505
Parto, parto (La Clemenza di Tito, K621)
Symphony No.8 in C minor (1890 version, edited Nowak)

Julianne de Villiers (mezzo-soprano)
Mark Nixon (piano)
Emily Sutcliffe (clarinet)
Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vassily Sinaisky

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 31 January, 2002
Venue: Royal College of Music, London

Expect to hear more of Julianne de Villiers. She has a lovely voice, one with ringing high notes. She communicates naturally and is poised and stylish. If there were times in both the Mozart arias (one concert, one operatic) when more identification with the sentiments expressed was needed – something beyond the recital room and more ingrained – then de Villiers’s charm will carry her forward to more penetrating characterisation and variety of expression. Mark Nixon was a little too retiring in K505, despite some neat playing. Obbligato the piano may be, but its role is more complementary and ’belonging’. Alfred Brendel has demonstrated how the piano illuminates this setting. While it would be unfair to expect Nixon to emulate Brendel, he has laid down interpretative possibilities (through two recordings) that Nixon might now be considering. Emily Sutcliffe, attractively ingenuous, brought an innocent instrumental corollary to Sesto’s scheming for Tito’s assassination.

Vassily Sinaisky was an appreciable accompanist. He began the concert with a warm-hearted account of the overture to Cosi; good to hear the music given time to speak, woodwind soloists space to breath and articulate the notes. Of the Bruckner, it can be said to have left an impression. Not having been to the RCM for a little while I had forgotten just how ambient the concert hall is. It’s a splendid acoustic, the room itself impressive and imposing, and although the acoustic swells the sound, it does so without losing focus of detail or becoming diffuse. However, some discretion with the loudest dynamics is needed; this Sinaisky didn’t show. The result was sometimes too assaulting as swathes of brass and timpani filled the hall.

Sinaisky led a volatile account, one that held the attention even if the music’s deeper expression and sense of space were sacrificed to drama and moving the music from one climax to the next. At 72 minutes this was a fractious rendition, one with little let-up and, in terms of brashness, somewhat wearing. That the finale has its structural problems is one thing; it’s quite another to career through them with the force of a tank! There were though some interesting points of articulation, not least Sinaisky’s very strong accents, including some notes not usually played thus. Although there were moments of introspection and repose – the ’trio’ and parts of the slow movement – the emphasis on primary colours and visceral attack, with woodwind often lost under strings and brass, vividly painted the cathedral’s edifice but not its finer points of architecture and certainly not its inner sanctum.

While issue can be taken with Sinaisky’s interpretation, it must also be recorded that the evening belonged to the Orchestra. Very well prepared, the strings were superb, especially the cellos, which glowed in this acoustic; the brass was assured, the winds, when they could be heard, very personable, but the timpanist, accurate and demonstrative, needed to be reigned in occasionally. That’s one of the conductor’s jobs. If Sinaisky’s rather uncoordinated, hasty traversal of the scherzo’s outer sections suggested a favouring of the big gesture rather than a focus on filigree detail, then the Orchestra was responding to his behest, the musicians covering themselves in glory in terms of skill and commitment.

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