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Expressive Warmth

Ruth Palmer plays the Barber Violin Concerto,
appreciated by MIKE WHEELER


How many more gifted young violinists are out there lining up to make their mark? The latest to come my way is Royal College of Music graduate Ruth Palmer, who joined Sinfonia Viva for the Barber Concerto (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 18 November 2008). Her undemonstrative stage manner belies both a formidably accurate technique and real expressive warmth. The poise and elegance of her playing was underpinned by a rich tone that made the lyrical writing of the first two movements sing out, while the perpetual-motion finale was delivered, by both soloist and orchestra, with needle-sharp precision.

Barber was paired with Beethoven, as part of Viva's series of concerts under the title 'Beethoven in New York'. The evening opened with a taut, powerful account of the Coriolan Overture while, after a quietly compelling performance of Barber's Adagio, it ended with Symphony No 5.

Like Coriolan, this was a reading that went for drama. Making the pauses in the opening bars very brief indeed, Viva and conductor André de Ridder plunged headlong into the turmoil. Tempos throughout were swift but with no sense of rush. A convincing case, in terms of the music's proportions, was made for restoring the third movement repeat that Beethoven originally planned but then cut.

Sonically, too, the performance was full of interest: minimal vibrato kept the sound clear and lean. Violas and cellos at the start of the second movement produced some wonderfully burnished tone. In the ghostly staccatos of the third movement's final section Viva brought out sonorities that must surely have caught Berlioz' attention, while its re-appearance in the middle of the finale had an air of almost gleeful malevolence.

Copyright © 29 November 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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