The Vienna Chamber Orchestra and a troupe of fun-loving virtuosos at the Festival de Música dos Capuchos

PortugalPortugal Festival de Música dos Capuchos – Mozart, Haydn: Diana Tishchenko (violin), Gérard Caussé (viola), Victor Julien-Laferrière (cello), Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro (piano), Vienna Chamber Orchestra / Victor Julien-Laferrière (conductor). Watched on private video feeds provided by the Festival from the Grande Auditório Universidade Nova FCT (Caparica), Almada, Portugal, 17 & 18.6.2022.  (LV)

Victor Julien-Laferrière playing Haydn with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra © Festival de Música dos Capuchos

17 June
Mozart –
Violin Concerto No.2 in D major, K.211
Haydn – Cello Concerto No.1 in C major; Symphony No.45 in F-sharp minor, ‘Farewell’

18 June
Mozart –
Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414;  Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, K.364

In two concerts at the Festival of the Capuchins, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra affirmed a Viennese Mozart that was urgent and supple, vibrant and sensual, and deeply collaborative. Each member was clearly a virtuoso playing as if he or she cared about the music, and they matched each of the soloists in terms of color, texture and, most challenging of all, in dialogue. They blended seamlessly and anticipated with split-second timing, which made possible five exceptional performances, each with its own story line and musical approach, each with its own measure of success.

That the darkly romantic sound in the Grande Auditório Universidade made the splashes of talent and repertoire even more dramatic and vivid reflected the musical work of the Festival’s curator and moving force, Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro. He was trained in Moscow but his heart never left Portugal, and his powerful Russian technique is tempered by a more flamboyant musical style.

Under Pinto-Ribeiro’s lithe hands, Mozart’s little Piano Concerto in A major bloomed unexpectedly. It was exquisitely beautiful through the first two movements and then, after opening shafts of light in the cadenzas of the Andante, Pinto-Ribeiro moved into the Allegretto with an energy that took and ran with its four-square theme and positioned it triumphantly – unconventionally so – as the concerto’s dominant movement. He adorned the outer movements with playful, light, virtuoso rhythms, and the gradations of sound he produced merged into the orchestral fabric as Mozart’s music does when it is most in love.

Diana Tishchenko and Gérard Caussé playing Mozart with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra © Festival de Música dos Capuchos

In Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D major the night before, Diana Tishchenko, winner of the 2018 Long-Thibaud-Crespin Competition, expanded time through some passages while also pushing ahead when necessary with an impetuous ecstasy that few violinists dare, and the orchestra followed her everywhere she went. Her trills were like whirlpools, her spectacular long runs could be breathless gestures lost in the dusky light of leading notes. She unleashed Robert D Levin’s sober cadenzas to spectacular effect. It was outrageously over the top at times, but it was exhilarating.

On the second night, Tishchenko played Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Gérard Caussé, who had last played the Capuchin festival thirty years ago. The orchestra was passionately precise in their opening and, after hushing down to pianissimo, they extended out their series of trills along a daring arc of crescendo that led to what quickly became an extended love duet between the two soloists, expressed through the expansive way they played and phrased, countered and parried, and spotlighted the contrasts between their bowings and their use of decorations. They painted the slow movement cadenza with uncertain brush strokes: hers were shafts of light and glitter, his rich port wine. It was theatrically entertaining too, as Mozart should be, with dramatic pauses after short fermatas and other significant intersections.

The most stunning performance may have been Julien-Laferrière’s take on Haydn’s C major Cello Concerto in which the 2018 Queen Elisabeth Cello winner played with breathtaking virtuosity. It allowed him to scamper around the higher positions with the greatest of ease, vary his bowings in tour-de-force explosions of pleasure and add all sorts of additional notes as structural devices, capped off by his own phantasmagoric cadenza for the first movement, all with a delicious youthful appetite for fun and narrative engagement. His performance of Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony was gracious and light.

When the Vienna Chamber Orchestra played Johann Strauss II’s ‘Pizzicato Polka’ as an encore following K.364, Tishchenko, Caussé (with his nose in the music) and Pinto-Ribeiro on the triangle crept into the orchestra. Just the way a troupe of fun-loving virtuosos ought to behave.

Laurence Vittes

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