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S&H Concert Review

Mozart: Violin Concerto No.3, Jupiter Symphony, Itzhak Perlman violin/director, London Philharmonic Orchestra (reduced ensemble),
Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm, 23 February 2002 (SHJ)

It is a common occurrence these days for ageing virtuosi to ‘diversify’ into the world of conducting, only to sink into obscurity (or mediocrity) upon reaching the podium. Fortunately, Itzhak Perlman does not succumb to this fate; on this occasion, his professional and accomplished conducting was as masterly - if not quite as technically astounding - as his violin playing, and his musical dignity was left fully intact!

He had trained his orchestra well; Divertimento in F, K.138 was as exciting and fresh as I have ever heard it, and – despite occasional slack ensemble – boasted an engaging degree of tension. Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K.546 was a powerful and unfailingly dramatic conclusion to the first half. More drama followed after the interval - Symphony No.41 (Jupiter) was given a sparkling performance that expertly captured the finality and definition of the work.

But what on earth was Perlman thinking at the beginning of the concert? The opening performance of Violin Concerto No.3 was played in an overtly romantic manner, and did not demonstrate the security that might be expected from an artist so familiar with his repertoire. Although the beautiful sound for which he is renowned was as present as ever, it was spoilt by tasteless rubato - humoured by a sympathetic and alert LPO - and liberal doses of portamento. Admittedly, such idiosyncrasies as these can be viewed as somewhat endearing hallmarks of Perlman’s predominant romanticism, but that was no excuse for the bland, rushed cadenza. This – ironically the one part of the piece where liberties can be taken – was airless and perfunctory. If Perlman can be so exemplarily stylistic when conducting Mozart, why not so when playing it?

Simon Hewitt Jones

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