STARTING where I left off last week, the second Cleveland Orchestra concert (* * * *) opened with two Ma Vlast symphonic poems left over from the previous evening. Little can be said in favour of splitting the cycle in that way.
Playing the new Usher Hall piano, Lars Vogt was an eloquent soloist in Lutoslawski’s fascinating piano concerto. A brilliant reading of Shostakovich’s sixth symphony followed.
Undoubtedly the main attraction of the European Union Youth Orchestra’s programme (* * * *) was Busoni’s gigantic piano concerto. American pianist Garrick Ohlsson made light of its technical challenges and an EIF male chorus joined in bringing the work to its fifth-movement conclusion.
Next came the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester(* * * *). Throughout 16 years of existence it has established itself as best of its kind. It is no exaggeration to note that these young musicians performed on a level comparable with that of the Clevelanders.
An extended string section of nearly 80 enables them to produce a full and satisfying sound. Their short Wagner excerpts contrasted well with an immaculately detailed interpretation of Mahler’s seventh symphony.
On Saturday morning in the Queen’s Hall, after opening with an attractive group of Debussy songs, Anne Schwanewilms went on to concentrate on German Lieder (* * *). Her vocal presentation reveals a few awkward corners here and there. She does not always articulate words clearly, and they lose meaning. Malcolm Martineau’s contribution called for the highest praise. It was unfailingly sensitive and lively.
Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra produced some splendid Festival fare (* * * *). Bartók’s first violin concerto, written in 1907-8, remained unknown until its first performance half a century later – 13 years after the composer’s death. Standing in for indisposed Josef Lendvay, violinist Barnabas Kelemen served up an impressive performance. Finally, the wide-ranging emotional stressfulness of Mahler’s fifth symphony resolved into the most triumphant of endings.
We always expect great things of The Sixteen, and their King Arthur (* * * *) was excellent. The point must be made, however, that it would have been even better in a hall half as big. With its icy representations and two of the most sublime melodies ever conceived, it is an endearing work.