Schumann, Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129
Elgar, Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36
David Parry (conductor)
Narek Hakhnazaryan (cello)
Brighton Dome, Saturday 13 March 2013
The Beethoven began slightly scrappily, with the ensemble not quite there for the iconic opening motif. However, once the orchestra had settled into Parry's sprightly tempo, they warmed to the task, and this turned out to be a highly enjoyable performance, surprisingly fresh and full of life. The wind playing was particularly strong - this proved to be the case throughout the evening in fact. The brief oboe solo before the recapitulation in the first movement was sensitively played, and the whole wind section relished the beautiful chamber-like passages in the slow movement. I thought Parry also brought out the dance in the lilting opening cello line rather nicely here. Again, string ensemble was not 100% tight in the scherzo - this time the cellos were culprits. I wonder if Parry's tempi were faster than the LPO are used to - although I'm sure they were capable of the challenge he set, and the pace certainly give the necessary energy and spirit to what could have otherwise been just another Beethoven 5. However, they all took flight in the lively finale, bringing the symphony to its emphatic and triumphant close.
Lamentatio by Italian cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima - thanks, LPO! He's also a member of the Silk Road Ensemble). Here his virtuosity was allowed to show in all its glory - the piece open with him vocalising over the top of double-stopping, and he then managed to include virtually every cello technique in the few minutes that followed. Here was the energy and life that I would have liked to have seen in the Schumann, and the audience certainly loved this too.
After the interval, the orchestra returned for Elgar's Enigma Variations. Once again, there was lots here that took this beyond a standard rendition of a popular classic, and again, this was largely due to the energetic tempi set by Parry. Sadly, he was forced to wait at the start as some particularly persistent coughers prevented him from creating the silence he wanted for the opening. However, with this put behind them, this settled into a very enjoyable performance. Some of the same features from the Beethoven were present here, and again, it was the wind playing that stood out for me, with some particularly tight ensemble playing in Variation III (R.B.T.). Once again the sprightly tempi resulted in a few moments of scrappy string ensemble, notably in the violins at the start of Variation II (H.D.S-P.). However, this was a small detail, and elsewhere the strings produced warm Elgarian tones, and certainly enjoyed themselves in the famous 'Nimrod', Variation IX, with David Parry controlling this well, avoiding over-indulgence yet allowing for the undeniable emotion to be released. The principal Viola (Gilliane Haddow) and Cello (Francis Bucknall) are both worthy of mention for their solos, the viola in Variation VI (Isobel) and again briefly in Variation XII (B.G.N.), and the cello in Variation X (Intermezzo: Dorabella). Parry then brought the evening to a rousing close, with a rip-roaring finale.