Brahms and Strauss at the RFH

On April 30th I commented on the pasting that Brahms's first Piano Concerto received from the critics: the same is true of his Violin Concerto which was widely disliked - which didn't stop it from going on to be regarded as one of the greatest of all violin concertos. Yesterday evening at the Royal Festival Hall it was played by Julian Rachlin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Daniele Gatti. I thought Rachlin's tone seemed a little thin: and the performance itself could have done with a little more warmth. The last movement started in a slightly plodding manner, but picked up with the tempo change near the end to a lively conclusion. Even so, an enjoyable performance of this great romantic work. It was preceded by a suitably dramatic performance of Brahms's Tragic Overture.

When planning concert visits it's often difficult to avoid repeats of the same work: I wrote about Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra last October: on that occasion it was played by the London Philharmonic. The organ part had to be provided by an electronic simulacram, but yesterday evening the partially reconstructed Royal Festical Hall organ was used. About a third of the pipes visible across the back of the stage are now in place, and so although the number of registers is limited it was possible to use it for this performance. The initial pedal notes were far more effective, and the organ accompaniment to the opening section more clearly audible than before. The orchestra gave an exciting and dramatic performance of this spectacular work - so much so that some idiot started clapping at a sudden silence part way through after a loud section (not even a completed cadence - there's always someone who has to be first). The subdued and questioning ending - again not on a harmonic resolution - didn't inhibit a well-deserved round of enthusiastic applause in the right place.

Posted: Sat - May 24, 2008 at 10:25 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM