An Excellent New Violin Concerto Unveiled in London

19/02/2015

  Mozart, Fribbins, Ravel, Saint-Saëns:  Philippe Graffin (violin), English Chamber Orchestra, Jean-Jacques Kantorow (conductor), Cadogan Hall, London. 17.2.2015. (LB)

Tannhauser Photo (c) Robert Kusel

Tannhauser Photo (c) Robert Kusel

Mozart  – Symphony No. 31 in D, ‘Paris’
Peter Fribbins, (b. 1969)Violin Concerto (2012-14)
Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin
Saint-Saëns – Une nuit à Lisbonne, Op. 63
Ravel – Tzigane for Violin and Orchestra

 The English Chamber Orchestra presented a thoughtfully conceived programme with an Anglo-French theme at Cadogan Hall last night. They performed music from both countries, as well as music inspired by France, with a French soloist, and there was a French conductor at the helm of one of the most distinguished and quintessentially English of orchestras.

Mozart’s ‘Paris’ Symphony, inspired by the composer’s visit to Paris during 1778, started proceedings – but the evident vigour of the musicians did not translate into the brilliant sound it deserved. London really is in desperate need of purpose-built concert halls, with credible acoustics, for the world-class chamber orchestras that inhabit the city.

 Mozart’s symphonies, a cornerstone of the chamber orchestra repertoire, are invariably engraved into the DNA of musicians as highly specialised as those of English Chamber Orchestra, and one got the distinct impression that they could happily have performed the ‘Paris’ symphony without the intervention of conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow.

 The violin concerto is perhaps one of the most popular and prolific forms in classical music, and is an especially challenging genre for composers today, who have to compete with so many of the great concertos from the past. Peter Fribbins’ excellent new concerto, painstakingly composed over two years, draws its inspiration from Purcell’s Z.780 Sonata in G minor, from Philippe Graffin’s unique qualities as a musician, and crucially also benefits from the composer’s own earlier experience as a violinist.

 It is an expressive work, in three movements, of about 30 minutes’ duration and makes a distinctive contribution to the development of the violin concerto in the 21st Century. It is musically and technically challenging for soloist and orchestra alike, and Jean-Jacques Kantorow made a decisive contribution to the success of the performance. Ensemble, especially in some of the furious passagework for the orchestra, was staggeringly good, and one was reminded of just how adept British orchestral musicians are at pulling rabbits out of the hat, with minimal rehearsal time.

 Le tombeau de Couperin has become better known as a showpiece for orchestra, and the fact that it started life as a six-movement suite for solo piano is sometimes overlooked in orchestral performances. This was to some degree the case this evening, especially in the first movement, ‘Prélude’, which was unfurled at a tempo rather quicker than the recommended metronome mark, and one at which most pianists would baulk. The ‘Forlane’ and ‘Menuet’ fared better, with John Anderson’s opulent and expressive oboe solos outstanding, amongst other excellent contributions from the woodwind section. The first violins’ crisp articulation in the ‘Rigaudon’ contributed to a spirited and well-balanced dance that allowed all the individual soloists adequate room for self-expression.

Saint Saëns’ charming, but all too short ‘little Barcarolle’ for harp and strings, Une nuit à Lisbonne, was affectionately played.

 Orchestral harpists seldom have as busy an evening as Helen Tunstall did this tonight; she was involved in four of the five pieces on the programme, and it was only the Mozart that spared her. From her position, centre-stage, she made a vital and colourful contribution throughout, but really came into her own in Ravel’s Tzigane, with some decidedly virtuosic playing.

 Philippe Graffin is a musician who is prepared to take risks, and this became even more evident in Tzigane. He brought the same sense of adventure to this popular concert rhapsody as he had done to Peter Fribbins’ violin concerto in the first half, and the audience responded with enthusiasm to the Gypsy within him.

 

Leon Bosch

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Comments

  1. Peter Fribbins is one of the most talented young(er) composers of Britain today, and will certainly make, after modernism, an important contribution to the revival of tonal music in the 21st century.

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Some Forthcoming London Events from Temple Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House Cinema Festival Begins Monday 3 December in State-of-the-Art Linbury Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet at the London Coliseum 13 December 2018 – 20 January 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Sándor Végh Memorial Concerts 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Perform Amahl and the Night Visitors in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ELIM CHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Iain Farrington’s Mahler Piano Series was an Extraordinary Marathon __________________________________
  • NEW! Vancouver New Music’s Quartetti Festival: Recharging the Contemporary String Quartet __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST ANGELA HEWITT IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Montserrat Caballé (1933 – 2018): A Personal Tribute by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month