Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – Schostakovich Concerto No. 1
16 June 2012
Reviewed by: Clive O'Connell
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Melbourne Town Hall, June 14
The latest in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Master Series juxtaposed two large-framed works, each featuring a distinguished soloist, with the whole exercise presided over by Benjamin Northey, the MSO's associate conductor stepping in for Donald Runnicles.
Before the orchestra swept into the sweet-and-sour world of Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with soprano Emma Matthews efficiently doing the honours in the finale, Northey and his forces revisited the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, Julian Rachlin realising the solo part with compelling power.
Rachlin showed his mettle with a reading that kept you involved even through the more acerbic pages of the score's opening paragraphs. Although the two rapid-fire movements made excellent vehicles for the soloist's piping-hot virtuosity, Rachlin moulded both the Nocturne and luminous Passacaglia into gripping constructs, the MSO generating a vehement, grinding backdrop. The airing of this rarity was welcome for its own sake, but also for the outstanding calibre of its prime executant and the rapid responsiveness of the orchestra.
For the symphony, everything went right: the horns made every post a winner; the woodwind and strings, almost flawless. This was a memorable performance.
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