Gifted Young Musicians Show Their Worth

13/01/2015

 Rust, Beethoven, Sibelius. Ben Baker (violin) Bartholomew LaFollette (cello), JongSun Woo (piano), Melos Sinfonia, Oliver Zeffman (conductor), St John’s, Smith Square, London, 10.1.2015 (LB)

Joel Rust – Beyond the Heart (2014)
Beethoven – Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56
Sibelius – Symphony No.7 in C major, Op. 105

The second half of the twentieth century proved to be an especially fertile period for artistic and social entrepreneurs to found orchestras as vehicles for realising their artistic vision, and the more resilient of those subsequently became household names, internationally.

The Melos Sinfonia, founded during the first decade of the 21st Century by its youthful conductor, and artistic director Oliver Zeffman, despite existing in a rather more austere climate, appears to be garnering significant support. It is dedicated to the laudable objective of providing a bridge from the conservatoire into the profession for gifted young musicians, and its programming also demonstrates an admirable level of imagination.

Their concert this evening began with a Melos Sinfonia commission, Beyond the Heart by Joel Rust who is himself still a student. Rust cites Sibelius as the inspiration for his composition, but it was all over almost before it began, leaving one with the distinct impression of a gifted composer still in search of a purpose and indeed a distinctive voice.

Beethoven’s ‘Triple’ Concerto has, for the last few decades at least, been unreasonably disparaged as a second rate, second period composition, and it was gratifying to hear it performed without prejudice by such a well matched trio of soloists.

The hesitant opening tutti emphasized the scale of the challenge that lay ahead for their youthful accompanist, who would have to maintain unity between the orchestra and three soloists with distinctive, but different personalities and temperaments. He rose to the occasion, and Ben Baker, Bartholomew LaFollette and JongSun Woo, from New Zealand, America and Korea respectively, gave a thoughtful and commanding performance, with JongSun Woo’s delicate piano playing especially delightful.

Conductor and orchestra sounded much more at ease and indeed at home in Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony and together they gave an idiomatic and well balanced performance.

Some of the most durable and meaningful artistic relationships are often forged at this critical stage of development in young musicians’ lives, and both conductor and orchestra would benefit enormously from working and performing together more regularly. It is ironic however that the profession for which the Melos Sinfonia is in the process of preparing its musicians is a fundamentally freelance one, with little opportunity for real continuity of experience.

Leon Bosch

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