Camerata Salzburg/Leonidas Kavakos

Symphony No.1 in E flat, K16
Violin Concerto in G, K216
Symphony No.82 in C (The Bear)

Camerata Salzburg
Leonidas Kavakos (violin)

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 4 September, 2006
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

This was ‘eine kleine nachtmusik’, not literally but metaphorically; Haydn and Mozart played with complete understanding and naturalness, always poised but never showy and with a complete rightness of rhythmical pulse and melodic shape. From the opening of Mozart’s early symphony (written when was eight years old), the crisp neatness of the string playing and the expressive winds and brass was immediately apparent.

Leonidas Kavakos was a self-deprecating soloist in the concerto at the centre of this concert, playing and directing with a conscious repudiation of being a ‘star’, but possessing of that quality – and with impeccable intonation and musicality. His own cadenzas emerged from the body of the movements completely organically; conversely the exemplary solos from oboe and horn allowed the ideal conversation of chamber music. Kavakos showed a few moments of uncertainty at the end of the finale; otherwise the movement was again a model of integration, its episodes – even the hurdy-gurdy passage – not so much contrasts as consequences, the onward flow never in doubt. (Kavakos and Camerata Salzburg have recorded Mozart’s violin concertos on Sony Classical.)

This sense of effortless coherence persisted in the Haydn (one of the ‘Paris’ symphonies) – between the different musical influences of “Sturm und Drang”, folk-music and wind-band divertimento, and between the unity of the different sections of the orchestra. Kavakos gave a controlled but energetic interpretation, with a strong, muscular first movement. There was some lessening of tension and dramatic line in the middle movements, but the final ‘bear’ movement restored vitality and élan.

Of course, this is an orchestra from Salzburg; so it is no surprise the musicians are steeped in the idiom. Nevertheless, even by the high standards of London orchestral life, with many visiting luminary ensembles, this was magnificently enjoyable. At the end, the orchestra, with elaborate courtesy, bowed to an enthusiastic reception – but it was us who had been privileged to hear so fitting a Prom in ‘Mozart year’.

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