Southbank Sinfonia/Ashkenazy

Concerto for piano, violin and cello in C, Op.56
Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish)

Tom Poster (piano), Tom Hankey (violin) & David Lale (cello)

Southbank Sinfonia
Vladimir Ashkenazy

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 2 May, 2007
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Billed as a Fifth Anniversary Concert, the Southbank Sinfonia is evidently prospering with a new Chief Executive, Justin Lee, a Patron of the stature of Vladimir Ashkenazy, a resident Music Director, Simon Over, and a full complement of professional support staff.

The orchestra itself seems to change every year and provides valuable performing experience to newly qualified musicians intent on making a career within the orchestral repertoire.

On the basis of this celebratory concert this year’s crop of players gives a good account of their intentions. However something went badly wrong in the selection from the orchestral alumni playing Beethoven’s ‘Triple’ Concerto. To make this odd work sound anything near to vintage Beethoven requires a batch of larger-than-life soloists who can project the somewhat threadbare material to best effect. On this occasion neither of the string soloists came anywhere near to this goal. David Lale displayed scrawny tone and wayward intonation throughout and Tom Hankey all but disappeared in the general sound. Tom Poster attempted to galvanise his fellow soloists with glances and nimble fingering but the overall effect was depressing. Beethoven hardly got a look-in despite Ashkenazy’s energetic conducting. There was certain sympathy for the soloists as Ashkenazy kept his back firmly on display to them. Perhaps his ears were affronted by the sounds coming from the solo string instruments.

Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony was a much happier experience. Ashkenazy achieved a loving and often-refreshing view of this early display of musical Romanticism. With no breaks between the movements, the players were kept on their toes having to adjust their musical response between the energetic two first movements, the expansive slow movement and the high spirits of the finale.

Our conservatories and academies never fail to produce young musicians of the greatest promise and the Southbank Sinfonia offers valuable exposure to the orchestral repertoire in various contexts, under numerous maestros and always with the aim of improvement in the playing of a range of music. The Southbank Sinfonia, on this evidence, deserves to prosper.

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