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Delectably Played

A concert by the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Arvo Pärt's 3rd Symphony is his only major work to come out of a period in the late 1960s and early 70s, when he was radically re-thinking his musical language. My first encounters with it were not encouraging, when it seemed more a succession of separate events rather than an organic whole. But Kristjan Järvi and the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra's committed engagement with its sometimes fragmented progress made more sense of it than previous performances I've heard (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 22 February 2008). I still feel that the third movement loses its way somewhat, but the performance was full of compelling moments -- the magical stillness surrounding the second movement's celesta solo, for example, and the daringly drawn-out treatment of the timpani solo later.

Mikhail Rudy was the soloist in a thoughtful, unshowy reading of Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto, at its best in the second movement, with the shaded dynamics of the piano/strings dialogue beautifully judged. Elsewhere, Rudy's finger-work occasionally lacked clarity, and the finale wasn't quite as playful as it could have been. Debussy's study 'For the Eight Fingers' seemed an odd choice of solo encore in this context, but it was nimbly played.

A swiftly moving account of Beethoven's 5th Symphony followed the interval, with a taut, fiery reading of the first movement that relaxed only for a particularly sorrowful account of the brief oboe solo towards the end. There was a genuine sense of mystery in the transition to the finale, which was vigorous without being hard-driven, but which didn't quite succeed in scaling the heights.

The encore, Brahms' Hungarian Dance No 6, was delectably played, but did we really need it?

Copyright © 1 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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