Opera + Classical Music Reviews

London Soloists @ Cadogan Hall, London

27 April 2007

There was something highly moving about the performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony at the Cadogan Hall on Friday evening.

The London Soloists Chamber Orchestra was by no means the most technically proficient of exponents for this defining work, but the group played with passion.

And in the face of a half-empty hall and the infuriatingly loud mobile phone rings, that was more than I could have hoped for.

Tchaikovsky’s work itself is one of the peaks of the symphonic canon as well as one of the most difficult to pull off, and Nicholas Collon dealt admirably with its emotional ambiguities and jarring stylistic swerves. What pleased throughout was the depth of sound present: the orchestra is small, yet every instrument so willingly slotted into and darted around the texture that great sonic landscapes materialised before the eyes.

The Allegro molto vivace is a gem of an orchestral showpiece, and Collon drove the band firmly and confidently through the rippling writing. To match his vision, every section rose to great heights of virtuosity, with the woodwind noticeably superb and the brass sure to tone down their fanfares for fear of overpowering the ensemble. And though Collon lacks that extra ounce of Russian vigour, he provided huge, sweeping Romantic lines and darkly purple textures in the outer movements: the perfect foil to the nimbly spun violin lines of the Allegro con grazia. It was not perfect, perhaps, but it was exciting.

The orchestral accompaniment to Mozart’s Piano Concerto 21 was less successful: the languid violins in the Allegro maestoso‘s orchestral introduction captivated the ear, but also anticipated an overemphasis on tonal beauty and transparency of sound. The piece may be airy and gorgeous, but the subtle orchestral mutterings in the Andante suggest a darker heart: only a startling bar of raucous horns in the finale awoke this leisurely interpretation. Thank heaven then for pianist Min Jung Kym, who explored the outer movements’ propulsive, flowing virtuosity thrillingly and musically. Her entry in the Andante was messy, but I adored the transparent, evocative sound that she produced, as well as the warmly-hued embrace of the Mozartian line. Hers was a performance to treasure.

And no complaints about Schubert’s Rosamunde overture either. The violins were not quite on the ball in the earlier, statelier passages, but everything gelled as the volume increased and, as the trotting rhythms were thrust out with metallic beef, I felt as though I was watching one of the great European orchestras. It was a pleasurable evening.

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