Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.77
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)
Gidon Kremer (violin)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 31 July, 2004
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
The great anticipation for this second Bavarian Radio Prom from Mariss Jansons, with his Latvian compatriot Gidon Kremer, was for once fully justified. This was a memorable concert, made even more so by an attentive audience, particularly in the introspective Shostakovich. Jansons clearly enjoys a mutual rapport with the BRSO, one of two new orchestras (he also becomes Chief Conductor of the Concertgebouw).
Kremer’s performance of the Shostakovich was outstanding and represented an umbilical link to its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, with whom Kremer studied at the Moscow Conservatoire. This was a slow-burn affair. Kremer may not possess the largest or most opulent of sounds but his was a supremely intelligent and thoughtful performance that breathed through the silences and conjured some magical half-tones in the first movement Nocturne. The scherzo was slightly underplayed, and the Passacaglia steadily traced to the lengthy cadenza and into the ferocious energy of the Burlesque finale. The violin is scarcely silent. Like a great long-distance runner, Kremer paced himself to make the cadenza the culmination before erupting into the finale.
The Tchaikovsky was similarly distinguished. Some might have found Jansons too cerebral in the first movement – everything was precisely calibrated, the closely observed bassoon dynamics at the outset symptomatic of this, the movement’s various sections (which can all too frequently jar) flowing convincingly one into another. There was elegant playing in the 5/4 Allegro con grazia (with a particularly subdued and affecting return of the waltz-like theme after the melancholic central section), a thrilling March (understated at first but built inexorably), and a finale of tremendous dignity and intensity (rather than the maudlin anti-climax it can seem in the wrong hands).
Despite prolonged applause Jansons rightly refused to play an encore. However, after the Shostakovich, Kremer had given us an extra, Ysaÿe’s Aurora.
- Concert rebroadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Friday 6 August at 2 p.m.
- BBC Proms 2004