The Fairy’s Kiss
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35
Gayaneh – Hopak
Julian Rachlin (violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 10 August, 2009
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
This was a wonderfully entertaining evening of Russian music. The Fairy’s Kiss (1927-8) is an underrated and under-performed ballet score, which Stravinsky composed in homage to his countryman Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky drew on some of Tchaikovsky’s lesser-known piano pieces and songs (although “None but the lonely heart” is included) as the inspiration for this delightful music which deserves wider recognition.
Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gave a performance that was immaculately prepared and brimming with detail. Karabits’s swift tempos and cooler- than-cool approach emphasised more Stravinsky’s neo-classicism than Tchaikovsky’s romanticism. He never let the pace drag and his control of the orchestra was impressive. There were some outstanding contributions from Edward Kay (oboe) and Kevin Banks (clarinet). Some rather sour playing from the horns was the only blemish.
A memorable Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto followed the interval. This was a full-blooded affair, Julian Rachlin producing a beautifully expressive tone throughout, combining scintillating virtuosity while bringing out the warmth in Tchaikovsky’s writing. There was no shortage of excitement and the tension Rachlin and Karabits created at the end of the first movement led to an unfortunate if understandable outbreak of applause. The second-movement ‘Canzonetta’ was a highlight – played with heartfelt intensity with little concessions to sentimentality, although some might argue that Rachlin’s rubato was a trifle excessive. The BSO’s support was sympathetic throughout including a ravishing flute solo from Anna Pyke following the first-movement cadenza.
Rachlin’s encore – the ‘Sarabande’ from Bach’s D minor unaccompanied Partita – provided the perfect contrast.
The selections from Khachaturian’s score for the ballet Spartacus were joyously extrovert and full of rhythmic vitality. The Bournemouth Symphony can really swing! Karabits and his players brought-out all the colour and excitement of music, which, in the wrong hands, can sound vulgar. The big tune of the famous ‘Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia’ (used as the title-music for BBC Television’s “The Onedin Line”) unleashed some wonderfully ripe and passionate playing from the strings. Karabits now had the enthusiastic audience eating out of his hands. He and the BSO were clearly enjoying themselves, too, and delivered the ‘Hopak’ from Gayaneh with gusto.