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Next in the evening's menu de plaisir came the original version (recently published by Edition Peters) of Tchaikowsky's well-chosen Variations on a Rococo Theme Op 33 in which we could admire the cello mastery of Morwenna Del Mar (also attributable to the ever-present Toni, but in a biological rather than adventitious sense). Morwenna's luscious tone, robust playing and no-nonsense approach confirmed the neo-classical nature of the programme so far, rather than be carried away by the Romantic display for which this work can too often serve as the vehicle. Only a slight false start in one of the variations (the quick recovery a proof of Morwenna's professionalism!) and a laboured run-up to the coda's final chord momentarily threatened to dent the performer's aplomb.

Mowenna Del Mar playing Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. Photo © 2007 Mike Eccleshall
Mowenna Del Mar playing Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. Photo © 2007 Mike Eccleshall

The ovation was deservedly loud and long as was the interval which followed -- it needed to be long for wound-up listeners to unburden their impressions and to prepare the ground for the appearance of Julian Jacobson, Artistic Director of the 'Valentine Series', not a whisker of whom had as yet been seen. Odds were laid on which role this Protean Master of the Revels would now assume. Composer and conductor were to be his first choice as he mounted the podium for a spirited performance of his newly orchestrated Vers la Valse -- somewhere between a reworking of Ravel's La Valse and a flute concerto. Originally it had been a piece for flute and piano commissioned by our matchless soloist, Ileana Ruhemann, for her Wigmore Hall début in 1986. Beginning in the lowest register, it seemed to recall the Stravinsky body noises of Part 1 more than the chthonic unwindings of Ravel's original -- what makes perfect sense in the transparency of the original flute and piano duo calls for an ampler time-scale if it is to make an equal effect in its orchestral context. More often than not we risked losing the soloist and her melodic-line in the busy orchestral chatter of what might be described as Schoenberg's klangfarbenmelodie applied piecemeal. Another abortive plunge into the depths and all was over. Perhaps my love of Julian's duo version had blunted my ears.

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Copyright © 21 February 2007 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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