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The Violin Concerto is best known through recordings by Tossi Spivakovsky and Ruggiero Ricci. The predominately virtuoso writing for the soloist -- the main protagonist -- and the orchestra which launches the ideas for development refutes the BBC pre-broadcast announcement that the simply stated themes underwent no development!

The irregular metric rhythms and subdivision of material into unit lengths often becomes so intriguing that one has to find a course between the solo pyrotechnics and the ever-changing orchestral colorations, alternately selecting, extending and fragmentising material at high-speed levels. The Adagio movement consists of a similar formula, although the bittersweet writing in the first half is broken by an extended solo cadenza that combines sad feelings with dance-like freneticism. The orchestra takes its own stance leading the soloist towards an exciting close.

The finale, like the world of Amelia al ballo is playful, mock-serious, and daringly vivacious in ever-changing mood sequences that never disintegrate into disorder or chaos but remain totally individual and impressive in staccato writing and accented passage work. The work was commissioned by Efrem Zimbalist, who gave the first performance in 1952, but I cannot imagine that his technique embraced anything like the sonorous virtuosity of Japan's Jennifer Koh, whose interpretation should do much to foster revived interest.

Throughout, Richard Hickox and the Spoleto Orchestra, with Donald Nally in charge of the choir, had provided maximum quality music-making, but their presentation of Verdi's Four Sacred Pieces gave the final touch to a splendid evening's entertainment in Teatro Nuovo.

Special fleets of buses, following a stream of private cars, took tourists to another concert at La Rocca Albornoziana, high up wth subdued lighting and spotlights centred on figurines, shields, and monuments surrounding the auditorium where orchestra, conductor and soloists participated in a glorious panoply of romantic music.

Schumann's Konzertstück Op 86 -- I believe the two horn players were orchestra principals -- rubbed shoulders with Brahms' Double Concerto, where Vesselin Gelley, violin, and Walter Haman, cello, were superb soloists. After the interval came the most fluently lyrical of Dvorák's symphonies -- No 5 in F. 'What a marvellous work this is!' exclaimed Richard Hickox to me.

The whole Menotti family -- Maestro, his personal assistant and secretary, Francis, with his wife and family were in the front row. Then there was the highly attentive audience. Somebody had been following me to the various events -- a most attractive lady with beautiful eyes who I immediately fell for! We had coffee together, then a meal with friends the next day.

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Copyright © 27 November 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK






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