Friday, 20 April 2018

Vasily Petrenko conducts in Vienna

In the old days, I would couple a radio tuner to a tape cassette recorder via an amplifier and record music off-air. The results were ... adequate. I was again surprised listening (on the web) to a concert given on 11th March in the  Konzerthaus Großer Saal in Vienna where Vasily Petrenko — a conductor for whom I have an enormous respect — was conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The sound in Beethoven' violin concerto, and in Rimsky-Korsakov's evergreen Scheherazade, was astonishingly excellent; well-balanced and well recorded. My only gripe was that the engineers had turned up the soloist's microphone in the Beethoven concerto when it came to the cadenzas, so we suddenly heard a sound out of all proportion to what had gone before, or what followed.

Petrenko is a known quantity in Russian music (and in Elgar) so I was not surprised to enjoy and admire the performance of Scheherazade. I have never heard Petrenko in Beethoven, and was pleased at the solid and positive support he gave to the solo violin. In my view, the Beethoven violin concerto needs a positive contribution from the orchestra, in order to contrast with the lyrical solo violin.

The soloist in the Beethoven concerto was 22 year old Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, born in Vienna. He came over here as a gentle soul, with expert lyrical playing, and the result was an admirable contrast between the strong orchestra and the filigree arabesques of the solo violin. An enjoyable performance. Tjeknavorian came up with cadenzas I had never heard before; the first movement cadenza was fine, the second movement one far less so, and the one in the finale OK. There are many fine cadenzas written for the Beethoven concerto, but every violinist nowadays seems to find a need to come up with something new; new is not always better than old.

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