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A Singing Style

Violinist Jack Liebeck
makes a short-notice appearance
with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


The number of performers whose careers have been kick-started by appearing as a last-minute replacement when someone is taken ill must be quite substantial. On this occasion (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 24 April 2008) it was London-born violinist Jack Liebeck, standing in for the indisposed So-Ock Kim who was to have played Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto. Given such short notice, Liebeck opted instead for the Mendelssohn E minor. It was a superb performance, with absolutely no allowances needing to be make for it having been thrown together at the last possible moment.

If ever there was a concerto that demanded not to be treated as just a virtuoso showpiece it's this one. Liebeck's gentle, soft playing held attention right from the beginning, and his simple, unaffected singing style in the second movement was just what the music requires. There was plenty of sparkle and energy in the finale, but it was the music we were invited to celebrate, not just the player's technique. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin backed him to the hilt.

Jack Liebeck. Photo © 2007 Tim Meara
Jack Liebeck. Photo © 2007 Tim Meara

They began the evening with Elgar's Cockaigne. There was an infectious ebullience to the opening, and the band marched past with great panache. The quieter moments, though, didn't quite make their full effect.

After the interval Holst's The Planets was more successful in some movements than others. 'Mars' opened out compellingly after a quietly menacing start, but 'Venus' leaned a bit too much towards romantic warmth where I think Holst envisaged something cooler and more detached. 'Jupiter' was nicely vigorous, 'Saturn' compellingly inexorable, while in 'Uranus' Slatkin and the RPO unleashed a whole nest of sorcerer's apprentices. For 'Neptune', the women of the Brighton Festival Chorus were placed somewhere backstage, creating a magically distant effect. A pity, then, that their first entry was so discreet I couldn't hear it at all, and that the magic was compromised by an all too audible final cut-off.

Copyright © 6 May 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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