Violin Concerto in D, K211
Sinfonia concertante for violin, viola and orchestra in E flat, K364
Violin Concerto in D, K218
Symphony No.29 in A, K201

Lawrence Power (viola)

UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra
Maxim Vengerov (violin)

Reviewed by: Chris Caspell

Reviewed: 13 August, 2006
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

It still amuses me how 250 years after the composer’s birth (and not many less years after his death) promoters are able to pack the Royal Albert Hall with an all-Mozart concert and yet struggle to get to half-measures for a concert of twentieth-century and contemporary music like Steven Stucky’s excellent Second Concerto for Orchestra that was heard in the Proms following this late-afternoon one. Though we should remember that Mozart was a radical in his day too.

Mozart’s violin concertos were written when he was relatively young (the first when he was only 17) and demonstrate a lyricism that shines over and above the technical brilliance found in other works written at the same time. Maxim Vengerov’s naturally melodic style of playing ideally complemented these performances; his conducting style simply builds the orchestra’s confidence as the musicians require no metronome; each member is so well attuned to what is required.

The two D major concertos were written in the same year (1775). Vengerov’s attention to detail was clear through carefully graded orchestral dynamics though his slightly wayward sense of rubato made following him an almost impossible task for the attentive young players of the UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. The cadenzas in K218 were by Vengerov himself and though well executed the use of frequent double stopping defeats the “melody over technique” style that Mozart espouses in the concerto itself. The lightest of touches with which Mozart paints the ending of this concerto was performed with orchestral skill commensurate with that of the composer.

Lawrence Power joined Vengerov for the Sinfonia concertante, the difference in their physical size quite noticeable (Power easily a head taller) but equal in terms of timbre. Melodic semiquaver phrases were tossed easily between the two players in the first movement and the unmarked gallop towards the end in the third movement showed them working well together (even if it was a distraction). Another was the insistence on double-dotting crotchets and thus making quavers into semiquavers. This was most noticeable at the very opening where Mozart is very clear of his intentions – and which were not followed by Vengerov.

The symphony showed Vengerov as conductor, the opening movement given with spirit. He has talent on the podium equal to his as a violinist and with a style that is never over-bearing. The orchestra evidently enjoys working with him – and together towards a common end. Although the concert was dominated by stringed instruments, the four wind-players, two each of oboes and horns, made their presence felt without trying to eclipse their colleagues.

The 7-year-old UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra is formed from musicians between the age of 17 and 29 from over 30 countries and displays skills and attentiveness that are frequently lacking in longer-established ensembles and, here, was led superbly by Ukrainian Rimma Yermosh. I hope the orchestra returns soon. This concert was recorded for television – BBC1 at 10.50 p.m. on 16 August.

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