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S&H Concert Review

Keuris, Shostakovich, Prokofiev Riccardo Chailly conductor, Vadim Repin violin, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, 3.30pm, 10 March 2002 (SHJ)


It’s an enormous pleasure to find the Royal Festival Hall filled to capacity on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps with artists of such quality as Chailly, Repin and the Concertgebouw billed, one should not be surprised, yet this was no easy-listening teatime programme.

The curiously attractive music of Dutchman Keuris (Tristan Keuris, 1946 - 1996) began the concert. Three Preludes for Orchestra, a shimmering atmospheric work influenced by an eclectic selection of styles from French impressionism to Mahler and Schönberg, demonstrated the Concertgebouw’s subtlety as an ensemble. Keuris’ many different textures were brilliantly defined and contrasted; chattering piccolo-glockenspiel passages juxtaposed against magical sustained chords dissolving to nothing at the final conclusion.

It would not be an overstatement to describe Vadim Repin’s account of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor Op 77/99 as some of the most outstanding live violin playing this reviewer has ever heard. His piercing, focused sound – played with incredibly precise yet natural bow control - might have been too emotionally detached for some ears, but he captured exactly the intensity and struggle that Shostakovich’s concerto demands. Within the outer tonal strength of Repin’s sound there was always a beautifully delicate vulnerability, encapsulated by his silky lyricism. Throughout, the Concertgebouw and Riccardo Chailly remained completely at one with the soloist, sympathetic to every nuance.

Chailly’s selection of excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Op.64 was another exciting and immaculate, if not electrifying, performance. Again, the Concertgebouw triumphed in its quest for contrast – although it is admittedly not difficult to find more different movements than the charming Morning Dance, Scene et al, and the infamously frenetic Death of Tybalt. Another conductor might have eked more poignancy out of the three deathbed scenes, but this was more than compensated for by the superlative sound of the string section, speaking as one as they finally faded away.

Simon Hewitt Jones

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