Grzegorz Nowak Impresses in “Valentine’s Classics”

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mozart, Delius, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bizet: Robert Davidovici (violin), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Grzegorz Nowak (conductor), Cadogan Hall, London, 13.2.2015 (AS)

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro – Overture
Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet – The Walk to the Paradise Garden
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op. 20 – Scène; Danse des cygnes; Danse espagnole; Valse
Bizet: Carmen – Suites Nos. 1 and 2


The programme notes informed us that in January this year Grzegorz Nowak was promoted to the post of Permanent Associate Conductor of the RPO, having served for seven years as the orchestra’s Principal Associate Conductor. Just what difference the change of title makes is unclear, but for Nowak the use of the word “promoted” and the indication of permanence are doubtless encouraging.

Certainly, on the evidence of this so-called “Valentine’s Classics” concert, he is a very accomplished conductor. The Mozart overture was played in a very lively, vivacious fashion and then there was a complete change of mood for Delius’s intermezzo. The performance of this exquisite piece left nothing to be desired, for Nowak kept the music flowing forward in just the right fashion, and his judgement of its natural ebb and flow and turns of phrase was immaculately sympathetic. The inclusion of this item in a programme of otherwise well-known pieces served as a poignant reminder that Delius’s music sadly remains in something of a backwater so far as live performances are concerned, despite the publicity given to it during the 2012 celebrations of the composer’s 150th birth anniversary.

Robert Davidovici got off to a rather scrambled start in his performance of the Mendelssohn concerto, and though matters improved there were too many lapses of intonation and instances of uneven phrasing throughout the work, especially in the first-movement cadenza. More pleasure was to be had in Nowak’s elegant handling of the orchestral accompaniment.

The second half was of a kind that is seldom encountered now in concert programmes. It just comprised pieces that could be easily enjoyed without the need for deep concentration. The Tchaikovsky ballet numbers were played with imagination and in a rhythmic style that reflected their dance origins rather than their use as concert fare. And in the Bizet suites there was much to admire in the character and zest of the RPO’s playing and the composer’s wonderful orchestration, which came across more vividly in this live performance than in even the finest recordings. Apart for the Mendelssohn, it was a most enjoyable evening.

Alan Sanders

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