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Ensemble

Wonderfully Refreshing

Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic on tour
impress MIKE WHEELER

 

The Warsaw Philharmonic has been touring the UK with its General and Artistic Director, Antoni Wit, and if the other concerts have been up to the level of this one (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 11 March 2008) it will have been a very successful tour indeed.

The clarinet and bassoon tone at the start of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet had a lovely reedy tang to it. The clean, warm overall orchestral sound allowed for plenty of snarl and bite in the fight music, while the climax of the love music was expansive without indulgence. A wonderfully refreshing performance, like hearing the piece for the first time all over again.

The soloist in Dvorák's Violin Concerto, Warsaw-born Kuba Jakowicz, has been a member of the Zehetmair Quartet for the last two years, and his playing was shaped by a chamber music-like sensitivity to detail and sense of partnership with the orchestra. He does not have a very big sound but everything is musically shaped, with a well-nigh faultless technique, fast but not obtrusive vibrato and spot-on intonation. The second movement was full of warm, generous lyricism -- though the big outbursts lacked something in weight -- and the dancing finale was simply captivating.

After the interval came one of the most memorable performances of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony I've heard. The opening was charged with expectancy, and the big central march passage was forceful without lapsing into hysteria. There was a splendidly sardonic air to the scherzo, and the third movement was notable for some touching woodwind solos, and for the desolate chill that followed the climax. The finale was admirably straightforward, keeping the emotional ambiguity nicely balanced.

But then the curse of the encore struck. One woman sitting nearby left saying she couldn't bear one after the Shostakovich. I wish my partner and I had followed.

Copyright © 24 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK

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FILHARMONIA NARODOWA

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller