Classical and Opera Reviews

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra @ Cadogan Hall, London

4 March 2008


The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s visit to the Cadogan Hall was well attended and generously applauded.

I would have been able to enjoy the concert a lot more had the amplifier hanging above me from the balcony not continually crackled and buzzed, distracting me and all who sat around me.

This was infuriating, as the musical performance was of generally high quality.

Here was a selection of popular pieces. In the concert’s first half, Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet stood next to Dvork’s Cello Concerto. In the former, Wit underplayed any sweeping Romanticism, opting instead for a highly detailed and cinematic interpretation. Passion was subdued, the fight music lacking angularity and the famous love theme searing but more purposeful than ecstatic.

Other rewards were reaped though: in the love music, the percussion rumblings and horn lines tended to seem incongruous, implicitly evoking offstage fighting, attempting to disrupt the ardent outpourings. In the more violent passages, the great orchestral detail conjured unerring images of warring tribes and blood-strewn streets. One missed Tchaikovsky’s simple emotional appeal, but was thrilled by Antoni Wit‘s probing interpretation and the orchestra’s rich playing.

The cello concerto was again finely conducted, Wit autocratically moulding every section of his orchestra, but soloist Julian Lloyd Webber was less impressive. He produced occasionally thin and unattractive sounds, but more problematic was his overtly introspective and meditative interpretation. Again, I felt that the work’s Romantic element was underplayed, but here, the result was more nullifying than thrilling. The rich majesty of the cello sound was replaced by something undernourished and lacking any authoritative personality. The Allegro‘s final bars thrilled, the orchestra’s brassy climax providing a dramatic and emotional release: indeed, something that one could finally grasp onto and languish in, as though the sun were breaking through the clouds.

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony was given a careful and moving reading, if not an enlightening one. The storm scene was powerfully played – possibly as powerfully as I have heard it, tension brewed through screeching high wind passages and violent polarisations of dynamics – while the work’s more lyrical stretches displayed the orchestra’s silky smooth string timbre and characterful, ebullient woodwind section. The spirit of the dance infested each movement, rhythms subtly delineated and crisp. The finest performance of the concert was, however, that of Lutoslawski’s Little Suite, each pithy movement clear in its intentions and supreme in its delivery.



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