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Eloquent Performance

A concert by Sinfonia Viva,
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


Does received wisdom still maintain that no conductor under the age of about forty can possibly have anything interesting to say about Beethoven? If so, then received wisdom was sent well and truly packing when Alexander Shelley, still in his mid-twenties, led Sinfonia Viva through one of the most involving accounts of the Eroica Symphony I've heard for a long time (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 18 April 2007).

The work was splendidly served by the orchestra's clear, fresh sound, with details of rhythm and instrumental colour pointed up, but without exaggeration. The ebb and flow of tension in the first movement was beautifully controlled; orchestra and conductor found a fine balance between keeping the funeral march moving and giving it full expressive scope, the scherzo was nimble, and the finale combined energy and power.

Haydn's Symphony No 99, at the beginning of the concert, brought out similar qualities. The clarity and mellifluousness of the wind passage in the second movement was sheer delight, and the wit of the finale simply sparkled.

Guy Johnston was the sensitive and technically impeccable soloist in Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. He and the orchestra created a wonderful sense of interplay and mutual response. It was possible to feel that his playing in the slower variations was a bit too inward -- beautiful in its own terms but making the music carry a bit more expressive weight than it warranted. Black marks all round, too, for perpetuating Wilhelm Fitzenhagen's wilful mish-mash of Tchaikovsky's original, but it was, overall, a lovely, eloquent performance.

Copyright © 26 April 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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