United Kingdom Mendelssohn, Dvořák: Vadim Gluzman (violin), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Tomas Hanus (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 11.11.2011 (SRT)
Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture
Dvořák: Symphony No. 6
Most of us have heard warhorses like Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Fingal’s Cave many times and familiarity can breed contempt; but it’s easy to forget how wonderful they can sound in top class performances, and that is certainly what we got tonight, mainly thanks to the conducting of Tomas Hanus, putting in a star turn with the RSNO. His pacing for The Hebrides was slower than many but he kept up the ebb and flow so that the music felt hypnotic, almost narcotic in places. He also conjured an extraordinary sheen to the string sound, with a sharp brightness to the sustained notes from the violins and diaphanous sensuality in the faster rippling passages. His slower pace also meant that he could milk the gorgeous clarinet solo in the recapitulation (played sensationally by John Cushin) for all that it was worth.
His ear for orchestral drama also came in useful for the Violin Concerto, and again the orchestral violins provided the shimmering, quivering bedrock of the sound. Vadim Gluzman played the solo part with splendour and pervasive legato, not just in the long-breathed phrases of the Andante but also, very effectively, in the appassionato drama of the first movement, reverting to blithe light-heartedness for the lightning sharp finale.
A Czech himself, Hanus directed Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony with fabulous dexterity, colourful and characterful but never ostentatious. The rich, Brahmsian orchestral colour again showcased the warm body of the string sound but this time underpinned for the first time this evening by the distinctive foundation of the heavy brass. The centrepiece of the performance was the beautiful long line of the slow movement, but the energy of the Furiant was cracking, as was the hell-for-leather dash for the finishing line. This was an excellent evening, brilliantly played and expertly conducted, and where everyone seemed to be having a great time.