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Totally Beethoven

MALCOLM MILLER attends a recent concert
by the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra at the Purcell Room


Mid way through the 'Totally Beethoven' series, the LSCO under the dynamic baton of their founder director David Josefowitz, impressed a large audience with a refreshing, enjoyable programme of both the unfamiliar and well known. The Purcell Room's stage brimmed to overflowing with the combined wind and strings of this talented young ensemble of soloists, resembling, in proportion, the orchestras of Beethoven's era. The first half featured lesser-known works, starting with the Mödinger Dances and the early Wind Octet Op 103, with two concerto works after the break, the Violin Romance No 1 and Piano Concerto No 2, with the young Greek pianist Panos Karan as superb soloist.

Throughout, the LSCO performed with panache and it was especially inspiring to witness this group of gifted musicians responding with alacrity to the enthusiastic direction of Josefowitz. Now in his eighties, Josefowitz's vision as founder of the orchestra following a career as record producer, has helped promote the careers of many leading musicians.

The Mödinger 'Viennese' Dances, a set of eleven minuets in ternary design, are an overlooked part of Beethoven's oeuvre, similar to the folk song arrangements, in that their overt simplicity is underpinned by the nuances and subtleties of a Master. Composed as late as 1817 for performance in the village where Beethoven was staying with his nephew Karl, the eleven minuets and trios are both formulaic and individual, with striking use of woodwind, especially horns, which are frequently given witty unchanging inner pedals. Here David Josefowitz's energetic direction impelled the charming pieces with elegant lilt, plenty of detail in articulation and phrasing, allowing full weight to the rhythmic impetus of upbeats and the mellow veneers in the smoother trios. One could savour the delicate blends of sonority, and while not profound in the conventional sense, the LSCO highlighted the finesse and some drama of these fine pieces.

Similarly seldom played was Beethoven's Octet, a work which exploits the conversational possibilities of the chamber medium to great effect. Here the positioning of the melodic instruments, oboes opposite clarinets, allowed telling emphasis to the dialogue of double reeds, oboes and bassoons, especially eloquent in the slow movement. In the three faster movements, Josefowitz's brisk tempi were rewarded with sparkling performances. Oboes (Dominic Kelly and Ruth Berresford) projected the first movement's initial theme, a trill-like motif, with verve, discussing it among the ensemble through the bubbly development, with its unexpected modulations, and maintaining momentum up to the fizzing conclusion, with its firecracker horn and clarinet arpeggios.

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Copyright © 10 May 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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