Glinka, Mendelssohn and Schumann at the QEH

Yesterday evening the Orchestra Of the Age of Enlightenment, which specializes in performing period works with period instruments, performed Glinka's Karaminskaya, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, and Schumann's third Symphony. One tends to think of period instruments in the context of 18th century works, but these three all date from the period 1845-1850, when valved horns and trumpets were only just coming into use, and the complex Boehm key system for the clarinet had not yet been invented. The sound, particularly of the woodwind, is quite different from a modern orchestra, reedier and more penetrating, so that the balance between strings and woodwind is different. All three works benefited from tis different balance, allowing us to hear something closer to what the composers intended.

In one respect there may have been a fortunate lack of authenticity: I have read somewhere that the famous conductor Sir Henry Wood instituted the practice of orchestra all tuning to the same instrument - usually the oboe - around the end of the 19th century: before that they didn't bother... the mind boggles at the potential result.

The soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was Christian Tetzlaff; this lyrical and lively concerto is easily assimilable and very popular, but that doesn't mean it is easy to play: it makes very considerable demands on the performer. The first movement was perhaps a little hurried, but Tetzlaff managed its complexities with ease: however unfortunately in the final movement he joined the increasing number of violinists who turn it into a race - it was rather too fast, and the strain showed in the fast runs which were not as clearly articulated at they should have been. However he got a huge ovation, so obviously most of the audience were impressed by the speed.

Schumann's cheerful and optimistic 'Third' Symphony (actually the last of his four to be composed) - the so called 'Rhenish' - was given an excellent performance under conductor Vladimir Jurowski, the distinctive sound of the period woodwinds giving the inner parts a clarity often lacking when the work is played by a modern orchestra.

Posted: Fri - January 26, 2007 at 09:59 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM