Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Salomon Concert - 29th June

To St. John's Smith Square last night for a concert by the Salomon Orchestra. Conducted by Neil Ferris they gave a challenging and exciting programme of 20th century music. Malcolm Arnold's Peterloo Overture, Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto and William Walton's First Symphony. Surprisingly perhaps, the Walton was the earliest thing on the programme (1932-35) and the Malcolm Arnold the most recent (1968) with the Shostakovich in between.

Commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the TUC, Arnold's overture graphically depicted the 1819 Peterloo massacre where a peaceful demonstration was attacked by the Yeomanry. Arnold showed this using contrary side drums in a similar manner to Nielsen. The overture is wonderfully loud and Ferris managed to achieve the fine balancing act between loudness and clarity, so that everything in Arnold's scenario was clear.

This was followed by Shostakovich's concerto. Written in 1948 for Oistrakh but not performed until 1955, after Stalin's death. The concerto is a difficult piece, written in symphonic form with 4 movements. The soloist was Jaroslaw Nadrzycki, Polish born but currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music. Nadrzycki is only 25 but already has a substantial CV; he made his debut with the Moscow Conservatoire Orchestra at the age of 12. Not only did he have the technique to give a dazzling account of the concerto, but he had the emotional maturity to deliver a profoundly moving reading. The concerto pulls no emotional punches and in the third movement, Passacaglia: Andante calls upon the soloist to deliver profound grief in a restrained manner. It is moments like this which can show up young virtuosi, but not Nadrzycki whose performance was worthy of someone twice his age.

Ferris's speeds in the concerto were a touch on the fast side, something which seemed to bother neither soloist nor orchestra, much to their credit. The orchestra delivered a crisp, punchy accompaniment with some beautifully profound solo playing.

After the extreme efforts of the first half, Walton's symphony took a little time to settle. This is a work which is full of awkward detail which needs to be carefully placed and in the heat of the concert hall (rendered profoundly stuffy in the warm weather) and following their efforts in the Shostakovich, the orchestra did not quite always deliver. As with the Shostakovich, Ferris's speeds were a little on the brisk side and there were times when I felt a little relaxation would have helped. That notwithstanding the orchestra delivered a strongly characterised account of Walton's fascinating score, making much of the emotional depths of the piece.

Their next London gig is on Saturday 17th July when, under Martyn Brabbins baton, the Salomon Orchestra will play all of Beethoven's symphonies in 1 day at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (with the LSO chorus provising the support in the 9th symphony). Put the date in your diary now!

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