Pinchas Zukerman Commemorates the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bach, Bruch, Brahms. Diana Adamyan (violin), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, (conductor/violin), Cadogan Hall, London. 21.7.2015 (LB)

Bach – Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 103
Bruch – Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor Op. 26
Brahms – Symphony No.1 in C Minor, Op.68


History is replete with shocking examples of the slaughter of people by their fellow human beings, and this evening’s concert, given by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of its principal guest conductor, Pinchas Zukerman, commemorated the centennial of the Armenian genocide.

Zukerman is renowned for nurturing and inspiring young musicians, and Bach’s concerto for two violins, which opened the concert, afforded the 15-year-old Armenian violinist, Diana Adamyan, the opportunity to perform alongside the maestro.

The somewhat large complement of orchestral strings was never in danger of overwhelming the imaginative interplay between the two solo violins, with admirable clarity in the counterpoint, and buoyant if overly generous bass lines. Adamyan appeared to relish her moment in the spotlight, playing with remarkable assurance and sweetness of tone, in a performance that will probably prove to be one of the greatest highlights in her own musical journey.

fter the Bach, Zukerman directed Bruch’s now popular first concerto Op. 26 from the violin. His direction from the solo instrument is unerringly economical but extraordinarily effective, and the orchestra was quickly into its stride once the opening dialogues between soloist and orchestra had been successfully negotiated, and the stage set for a passionate performance of great urgency and intensity.

Zukerman’s command of the solo part was nothing short of astounding and his opulent tone projected to the furthest reaches of Cadogan Hall, all executed with an almost nonchalant assurance. The music was delivered with a sincerity that precluded any indulgence, and was profoundly emotional without becoming sentimental.

Bruch would have been happy to hear his concerto performed so extraordinarily well, and delighted by the ecstatic applause that erupted even before the final note of his now-famous composition had died away.

Zukerman’s repertoire of gestures as a conductor is infinitely more flamboyant than the economy of his directing from the violin, but equally commanding and effective, and the sound he coaxes from the orchestra is also at least as opulent and complex as his legendary violin sound.

Unlike many other orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic appears not to struggle with the Cadogan Hall acoustic, probably because as orchestra in residence it has had ample opportunity to get to grips with its idiosyncrasies. Brahms’ first symphony, 20 years in gestation and now invested with iconic status in the symphonic repertoire, benefitted from this command of the acoustic, with a dynamic range and internal balances judged almost to perfection.

The first movement sostenuto introduction was brooding and imperious, with the timpani, double basses and contrabassoon pulsating darkly and menacingly, creating an atmosphere of real foreboding.

The second movement Andante sostenuto was delivered briskly but affectionately, with some beautifully articulated solos from the woodwinds, the French horn and indeed the concertmaster, Duncan Riddell, and the third movement Un poco allegretto e grazioso amiably wended its way.

It is Brahms’ majestic finale that has invited comparison with Beethoven however, firstly because it begins in C minor and ends in C major, as Beethoven’s fifth symphony does, and secondly because of the gloriously heroic theme presented in the low register of the violins, that is reminiscent of the ‘ode’ in Beethoven’s ninth symphony. Zukerman and the Royal Philharmonic performed the finale as if their lives depended on it; the heroic theme infused with pathos, and the rapid passagework dispatched with ferocious athleticism.

By the time orchestra and maestro approached the coda, the collective momentum was almost unstoppable, and the additional exuberance they were able to muster ensured a breathless but triumphant conclusion, to which the audience responded with the utmost enthusiasm.

Leon Bosch

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