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Winning Freshness

Music by Bach, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn,
Mozart and Wagner,
played by Sinfonia Viva,
and heard by MIKE WHEELER


With the Mendelssohn bicentenary celebrations now in full swing, trust Sinfonia Viva to come up with something unusual (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 24 February 2009). The D minor Concerto for violin, piano and strings is one of the teenage composer's very earliest works. Sisters Baiba and Lauma Skride made the ideal partnership for the solo roles; their interaction both with each other and with the orchestra was a joy to watch. While I'm not sure that I agree with the programme-note writer (me) that it is unmistakeably Mendelssohnian, there is plenty of his characteristic boyish energy, which soloist and orchestra communicated with winning freshness and vitality.

The concert opened with Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, the orchestral sound nicely balanced to give clarity, and the music kept moving just enough to provide backbone as well as warmth.

The Mendelssohn was the first performance featuring the Royal Concert Hall's new Steinway, and after the interval Lauma Skride came back to play a delightful extra, 'June' from Fanny Mendelssohn's Das Jahr, which she recently recorded to great critical acclaim.

It is unusual these days to see a conductor directing a performance of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto. Neat articulation, rhythmic drive and plenty of tonal variety marked this one-to-a-part account of No 3; a short harpsichord cadenza led to that unexplained pair of chords joining the two movements.

Mozart's Symphony No 39 was given a spirited performance, with textural clarity in even the most richly-scored passages. The minuet was sprightly, and the outer movements combined elegance and bold vigour.

Copyright © 19 March 2009 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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