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Elegance and Authority

Leila Josefowicz and the
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


It was unfortunate for Leila Josefowicz's performance of the Mendelssohn E minor Violin Concerto with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 12 February 2009) that it should have come so soon after the utterly captivating account by Antje Weithass and Sinfonia Viva in Derby two weeks before. Her playing had elegance and authority, the second movement taken at a nicely flowing pace that avoided over-sweetness. But the final degree of magic seemed to elude this performance. The finale, in particular, was taken at a fast pace that should have worked but came across as more aggressive than playful.

Before the Mendelssohn we heard Grieg's Symphonic Dances. Andrew Litton's conducting brought out the contrasts of bouncy, earthy vigour and gentle lyricism -- the oboe solo in No 2 was especially winning -- but also a possible over-emphasis on the music's heavier, darker sonorities; the trolls were certainly out in force in No 4.

Walton's Symphony No 1 has become something of a Litton speciality, and there was much to enjoy here. The excitement, though, was tempered by a tendency to dwell on details at the expense of momentum; there were a couple of moments in the first movement when the tension seemed to ebb a bit too much.

The scherzo had plenty of drive but just missed some of the sheer viciousness (Walton did mark it 'with malice', after all). The cool, melancholy poise of the flute solo at the start of the third movement was beautifully projected. The Finale began very fast, and the fugue was launched with impressively incisive playing, but occasionally some important details were lost.

In the end I wondered whether Litton was viewing the work from too much of a Mahlerian angle and not enough of a Sibelian one.

Copyright © 21 February 2009 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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