Le roi d’Ys – Overture
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Symphony in D-minor
Daniel Lozakovich (violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: David Truslove
Reviewed: 25 August, 2022
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
Fabien Gabel brought together three late-nineteenth-century works written within a decade of one another, with a major-minor-major traversal either side of the interval. And how welcome it was to begin with a rarely performed curtain raiser, and close with a once-popular Symphony.
Proceedings began with Édouard Lalo’s overture to Le roi d’Ys, belonging to his singularly successful opera. Based on the Breton legend of the drowned city Ys (later to inspire Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie), the work bears a distinct kinship with Wagner, echoes of whose music occupy this twelve-minute traversal of brooding import to swashbuckling endeavour. Under Gabel, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave the work a stirring outing.
Any dramatic sweep inherent in the Lalo seemed to evaporate in an expansive unfolding of Brahms’s Violin Concerto in with Daniel Lozakovich. Rather than presenting a seamless span, the opening movement lurched from one paragraph to the next, its way-marking at times a little pedestrian. The soloist’s whispered intimacies fared well in sweetly poised lyrical episodes, but passage work felt abrasive at times, both qualities marking Joachim’s cadenza. Added to this was Lozakovich’s relatively modest dynamic range that kept the BBC players under wraps for much of the time. It was a joy to hear characterful woodwinds open the Adagio (Rainer Gibbs’s oboe especially beatific), where charm and sensitivity were uppermost, but the whole felt mannered in its halting momentum despite rapt playing from the soloist. The Finale was a mixed affair, plentiful bravura but more frenzied than giocoso, its slower closing bars denying any breathless exhilaration. Further indications of Lozakovich’s impressive technique arrived in Nathan Milstein’s Paganiniana.
César Franck’s Symphony in D-minor was a different story, given a compelling performance that raised the question as to why this work has all but disappeared from our concert halls. This charged account was to refute criticisms from early detractors (such as Ravel’s complaint of stodgy orchestration) and made an undeniable case for the Symphony’s reinstatement. From the beginning Gabel exercised a firm grip on the work’s moodswings and fashioned a reading of accumulating tension from a compartmentalised structure built on a wriggling worm of an opening idea. No less persuasive was his acute ear for balance, finely judging the moment when trumpets, resplendent rather than overbearing, take over the first movement’s blousy secondary theme. The two-in-one Allegretto (slow movement and scherzo) brought dividends in Jessica Mogridge’s haunting cor anglais and much silky string-playing. But it was in the sweep of the Finale that the BBC players really excelled, building from their incisive attack to incorporate nobility and swagger, the whole blazing with conviction. Notwithstanding any influence the work may have had from Brahms and Wagner, this performance unquestionably asserted Franck’s symphonic credentials.