Nigel Kennedy versus Elgar at the RFH

An evening of Elgar yesterday at the Royal Festival Hall. First, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin performed Elgar's Second Symphony: though I felt the first movement was a trifle hurried the second and third movements gave full weight to the sombre undertow to the symphony.

However the main event of the evening was the Elgar Violin Concerto, performed by star violinist Nigel Kennedy. I would guess that at least half the audience were Kennedy fans (as opposed to Elgar fans): he has a wide following, and has won a number of awards. His CD of the Elgar was widely acclaimed.

Not by me, though: I didn't like it, though I seem to be in a minority, possibly of one. I felt much the same about yesterday's performance. The first movement was slightly too fast, with many of the fast runs becoming slightly scrambled. The slower sections came off better, being suitably lyrical, but again the final movement was hurried in its faster sections. While I wouldn't say that the work was badly performed as such, the style throughout was more suited to the well-known show-off pieces such as Ravel's Tzigane - aggressively bowed in places, and mostly lacking in the contemplation and warmth this splendid concerto deserves.

It got a tremendous ovation, with many of the audience standing, clapping over their heads and whooping like rock-concert attendees: an atmosphere furthered by Kennedy's trademark spiky hair-cut, grunge clothing (if that's how you describe it) and joky salutes to the audience. However what mattered was the music, and I don't feel that his performance, despite its good points, deserved this uncritical acclaim. I much preferred the performance by James Ehnes I attended last May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Posted: Thu - March 13, 2008 at 09:33 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM