Joanna MacGregor piano
Kazuki Sawa violin
Colin Carr cello
Berlioz Overture to 'Benvenuto Cellini'
Beethoven Triple Concerto in C, Op.56
Sibelius Symphony No.2 in D
This RFH gala concert was meant to be the highlight
of a week-long series of musical events to mark the beginning of the
Japan 2001 festival; the intention had been to bring together students
from Tokyo Geidai (the Tokyo National University of Fine arts and Music)
and London's Royal Academy of Music, to form a 'cross-cultural' music
festival. Sadly, it was not to be; security fears following terrorist
warnings forced the Japanese visit to be cancelled, and it was left
to Royal Academy students to fill in for the absentees. Happily, the
violin soloist Kazuki Sawa did manage to travel from Japan, and
this concert at least (as well as the recital by Quartetto Armonico)
The stand-in orchestra - supplied by the Royal Academy
alone - was an excellent substitute. The performance of Berlioz's quirky
Overture to 'Benvenuto Cellini' (his earliest overture)
was spirited and energetic, and the secure interpretation owed much
to Sir Colin Davis' experienced direction. Beethoven's Triple
Concerto in C, Op.56 was not such a success; Davis, pianist Joanna
MacGregor and cellist Colin Carr struggled through the piece
heroically, but were burdened with insecure ensemble from the orchestra,
and the incongruously sharp pitch of violinist Kazuki Sawa. Beethoven's
Triple Concerto is more focused on the string soloists than the
piano (this is deliberate: Beethoven wrote the piano part for his young
patron and pupil Archduke Rudolph, who was not the most competent of
pianists), and interplay between violin and cello is all-important.
Sawa's playing in the second movement Largo included some beautiful,
searching moments, but throughout the rest of the piece his fluctuating
tone failed to balance Colin Carr's strong, powerfully projected sound.
Carr left no doubt that he was a virtuoso of the highest calibre, but
by becoming the central focus of the performance the equality of the
'triple' concerto was compromised - not that this was any fault of his.
Interestingly, the soloists appeared to be using music, though it did
not go unnoticed that Carr's part remained unopened on the stand throughout...
In Sibelius' glorious Symphony No.2 in D, the
orchestra regained its focus. Where Sibelius' writing demanded it, a
far greater sense of vitality was suddenly discernible, and in the famous
opening Allegretto, the brass and string sections suddenly possessed
a richer sonority. The haunting wind solos deserved a special mention,
in particular those of the oboe section. Was the ending of the final
Allegro moderato movement climactic enough? At first it seemed not,
but perhaps Davis did not want to end this forward-looking Symphony
with a blazing overstatement. Written at an exciting and pivotal point
in Sibelius' career it is a work that is both excitedly optimistic,
yet full of anticipation for the future yet to come.
Simon Hewitt Jones