Two years on from their Barbican performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, violinist Sakaya Shoji and conductor Yuri Temirkanov were reunited in the Royal Festival Hall for this performance of the composer’s Second Violin Concerto.Shoji, the first Japanese violinist to win the Paganini Competition, is one of the finest violinists on the world stage, although her appearances in the UK are still comparatively rare.
The Second Violin Concerto was given a spacious, detailed performance, Shoji highlighting the quixotic nature of the first movement, the lyrical elements of the second, and the heavy, dance-like character of the third. As with the performance in 2008, her playing was notable for its technical prowess and breadth of tone, projecting Prokofiev’s melodic invention with a rich vibrato and expressive phrasing. Temirkanov’s accompaniment successfully communicated the concerto’s mixture of fantasy, darkness and vigour.
The remainder of the programme featured two of Tchaikovsky’s most familiar works. The concert opened with a dramatic and well proportioned account of the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture. Although Temirkanov’s shaping of the love theme was tender rather than passionate, the music representing the feuding Capulets and Montagues was charged with adrenalin, and the playing of the Philharmonia was superb throughout.
Temirkanov’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony was similarly successful. Vibrant playing and a fast tempo emphasised the power and excitement of the first movement, although Temirkanov was careful not to lose sight of the music’s lyrical impulse or underlying sense of tragedy. A poetic account of the oboe melody by Christopher Cowie opened a spacious interpretation of the second movement in which the woodwind playing was uniformly excellent, while a sense of fun pervaded the playing in the pizzicato third movement. Best of all was the finale, which was propelled to a feverish level of excitement under Temirkanov’s skilful direction, abetted by the razor sharp articulation of the orchestra.