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Showing posts with label Laura van der Heijden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura van der Heijden. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Seraphin Chamber Orchestra : Whilst you're alive, playing to hear live

This reviews the second concert by Seraphin Chamber Orchestra, under Joy Lisney

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

21 May

This is a review of the second concert given by Seraphin Chamber Orchestra, in the chapel of King’s College on Sunday 21 May 2017 at 8.00 p.m., in a programme of works by Vaughan Williams, Mozart and Dvořák, conducted by Joy Lisney

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) ~ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910)

Ralph Vaughan Williams (RVW) as conductor

There, in the first chord (and at which one could smile contentedly), was established the spirit of Vaughan Williams – and the King’s chapel-bell, a regular at concerts, chimed eight o’clock without one’s having a care in the world. With a well-defined, slower tempo than is much heard, Joy Lisney enhanced the luminosity of tremolo-infused beauteous calm that is part of RVW at his best.

At ebb of tide, think not the sea is faithless ;
It will return with love unto the shore.

‘Love’s Ebb and Flow’ ~ Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy

When we heard a crescendo, it was proportionate to the piece, and, by making us wait for moments that we love well - both by pacing and the use of rallentando - Joy respectfully disrupted¹ our merely expecting to experience what we already knew : in this way, as she had done in Seraphin Chamber Orchestra’s initial concert, she and the orchestra somewhat teased us (almost - if one may - as a sexual partner might ?), to give the familiar back to us, but better.

So, when the four principals² began separating from within the texture of the ensemble and coming to the fore, a tear formed, and there was a full emotional response to appreciating the dimension of two orchestras, which are used so differently from how Michael Tippett does in his lovely Concerto for Double String Orchestra (responding, amongst other things, to English madrigals of the seventeenth century as, in that era, RVW is - inter alia - to Corelli (1653-1713)).

We did not stay in this realm, though, since the composer has the effect of vibrancy drop away, and instead presents us with somewhat mysterious and heavy-laden chords and modulations (though the harmonic language may always been implicit when he presents long, sustained notes at the beginning of the work ?). Even so, the glorious main theme is allowed to re-emerge, with the voice of the leader, alongside soft pizzicato, and Joy here brought out a strong feeling of expectancy.

Then, the lightness and luminosity of the opening returned, with its concords, and a forceful quality to the string-sound. Vaughan Williams concludes with the strains of violin obbligato, superbly brought to us by Paula Muldoon (not, as advertised, Rachel Stroud), before another dropping away, and our due applause. (In this performance, one thought, for the first time, of the Epilogue (marked Moderato) of RVW's Symphony No. 6 in E Minor (and of his audio-preserved remark about Sir Adrian Boult's recording : might we, some day soon, be confidently hearing from Joy, with complete symphonic forces, in such a work ?)

Wolfgang Amadee³ Mozart (1756–1791) ~ Divertimento in D Major, K. 136 (1772)

1. Allegro

2. Andante

3. Presto

Delahaye's portrait of Mozart (1772), i.e. aged 16 years old

The latter part of the eighteenth century is another sound-world, but equally one that a conductor and orchestra co-create. However, in the opening Allegro of a fairly well-known work, there were notable differences : Joy had made sure that Mozart's ornamentation did not sound 'throwaway' (which was also a feature when we came to the Andante), and that the underlying bass-line was both not unheard, and did not seem unimportant in relation to the upper parts.

With a degree in music, and as a working composer, Joy had found other emphases to choose to make in this performance. For example, with the principal theme (and its iterations), she placed a little more stress on the first part of its outline, and then, in the second movement, she continued what we had heard with the Tallis Fantasia, shaping the phrasing to be maximally expressive. Thus, under her conductorship, Seraphin Chamber Orchestra (@SeraphinCO) took in the full grace of the Andante’s main theme, as well as that of its harmonization – Joy seemed to have let the natural measure of the score determine the exact tempo.

As so often with Mozart’s work, its suspensive or reflective qualities – which are at the core of the music – are to be found in the innermost moods of these slower movements. Again, the significance of trills, turns and slurs did not go unheeded, and so of giving effect to them somewhat differently : by not treating them simply as artefacts or conventions of the time when the work was written, Joy avoided the sort of playing that can seem to honour the spirit of Mozart’s compositions, but actually be more like superficial sheen - rather than very good reasons to listen to what he has to say.

Thus, in the concluding Presto, one can all too easily take the impression that the balanced nature of the material is either flippantly glib on the composer’s part, or play it as if it is just foursquare. Here, it was clear that it was neither, and, although the orchestra gave us nice, quick bowing, Joy – unlike with those who seem to view the marking Presto, as at an end-of-speed-limit sign, allowing them to indulge themselves – never made us feel rushed.

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) ~ Serenade in E Major, Opus 22 (1875)

1. Moderato

2. Tempo di Valse

3. Scherzo. Vivace

4. Larghetto

5. Finale. Allegro vivace

Dvořák, in 1891 - having received an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge

As with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, performed in Seraphin Chamber Orchestra’s first public performance (in mid-February 2017, and in the same venue), the concluding work, by Dvořák, contains movements that would be familiar just in their own right (such as the Tempo di Valse or the Larghetto, which are the second and fourth movements, respectively), whereas – except to someone who really knows the work as a whole – the opening Moderato will not be.

However, we can perceive how Joy, with assurance, is again shaping the musical material, and how, as she conducts, her fellow string-players respond to give her interpretative control (she also gives recitals as a cellist, and had played / directed a Haydn Concerto in the previous concert). In a way that, perhaps, we might associate more with Igor Stravinsky, or Michael Tippett, when Dvořák gives a reprise of the theme, we hear that he has a counter-melody in the second violins (after the premiere of Joy’s own ‘Thread of the Infinite’, Tippett's Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli had been played next, in the preceding weekend’s concert at West Road Concert Hall).

In the Tempo di Valse, in passages marked forte (or louder), Joy is giving us what has otherwise been carefully kept back in curating and punctuating the initial theme – just as, later, Dvořák himself prominently uses a fortissimo cadence as an emphatic way of marking the end of the first part of the movement. What we may have found - if we were not just hearing the music - is that Joy (to make it more effective) was alternating that full richness with employing restraint elsewhere. When Dvořák effected a transition to legato writing, Joy brought out a honeyed tone from the orchestra, with pizzicato on the cellos, and as a further use of clear and precise demarcations within the scope of the movement. After a rallentando, it concluded with a very definite full close.

The third movement (marked Scherzo. Vivace) has a different aspect altogether, which we felt in how Joy caused the ensemble to express intensity, and onward movement. In the slower sections, there was a feeling of suspense, from which we built back to the initial tempo, then, with some lovely pizzicato playing in the lower lines, and the melody held back (with a slight rallentando), the central section of the Serenade moved to an end. The Larghetto is quieter, and we heard tremolo, sensitively utilized by this versatile group of instrumentalists, as well as adeptly long bow-strokes. There was an attractive melody, written for cello, and then running arpeggios (marked to be played as triplets ?), and all of this conducted and played with charm and poise.

Lastly, as if the Finale's initial (and partly repeated) gesture had been ‘a wake-up call’ from Dvořák, his writing for the lower strings - which came across as lively and yet measured - led us to the loudest music that we had been exposed to all evening. More and more, the Allegro vivace resembled a dance-form (was what it had become a Furiant ?), with, at one point, another counter-melody before the fortissimo dynamic returned (fortississimo ?). After a deft piece of pizzicato playing from Christopher Xuereb, on double-bass, and as if Dvořák were still in a playful mood, he set up the expectation that the chords played were a closing cadence : it proved to be a false end, and, a few bars later, the work came to its proper conclusion.

In one undivided performance, another very agreeable, and highly accomplished, evening of music-making from Seraphin Chamber Orchestra (@SeraphinCO) and Joy Lisney (@JoyLisney) ! If those reading this review have not heard Joy or the orchestra before, make it your aim, with another Seraphin concert (to be announced) due in the autumn.

End-notes :

¹ The modern vogue for talking about disruptive technologies (or our reaction against this jargon, which would seem better applied to computer viruses and other malware) may make us assume that all disruption is (as one may see it) bad - or good. Yet it may depend on viewpoint whether subverting the commonplace (e.g. in art, to ask us what we assume or why), or minority shareholders or outside protestors stopping an AGM to make an ethical point. (With different prefixes, we also have corrupt, erupt, interrupt - a lexical root that gives rise to other words with strong meanings...)

² Paula Muldoon and Anita Monserrat (first and second violins, respectively), Roc Fargas i-Castells (viola), and Laura van der Heijden (cello).

³ So (on Radio 3’s The Listening Service) Tom Service (@tomservice) wishes to assert Mozart actually styled himself.

Leopold Mozart, his father, had certainly ensured Wolfgang's exposure to as much as possible of music and culture in Italy, as this map shows (from the Wikipedia® web-page Mozart in Italy) :

Mozart's travels in Italy (December 1769 to May 1771)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A concert with The Endellion String Quartet : Beautiful Brahms, and somewhat baffling Haydn

This is a review of The Endellion String Quartet, playing Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

15 March

This is a review of a concert given by The Endellion String Quartet at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, on Wednesday 15 March at 7.30 p.m.

It has to be said that, when none of the string quartets on the programme (except perhaps the Mendelssohn ?) could be thought of as the core works of repertoire (though that makes it an inevitability that, for no good reason, a composition such as the Brahms A Minor is too little heard), The Endellion String Quartet clearly has a dedicated ‘fan-base’ [] : there must easily have been more than 300 in the audience in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge (@WestRoadCH), so who says that there are no big audiences for chamber music… ?

Programme :

1. Josef Haydn (1732–1809) ~ String Quartet in E Major, Op. 54, No. 3

2. Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) ~ String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80

3. Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) ~ String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2

The Endellion String Quartet : Andrew Watkinson (1st violin), Ralph de Souza (viola), Garfield Jackson (2nd violin), David Waterman (cello)

Haydn ~ String Quartet in E Major, Op. 54, No. 3 (1789)

1. Allegro

2. Largo cantabile

3. Menuetto : Allegretto

4. Finale : Presto

The Haydn of the string quartets seems influenced, here, by his symphonic writing. The Allegro opens with a pair of balanced bars, and then fast writing for first violin (Andrew Watkinson). Eventually, we are into territory that is serious, and, no longer with an appearance of graciousness, which is characterized by an ascent that, through being staggered by backwards steps, is not a scale : on the way up, or descending, it is impliedly modulating as it goes. The movement is in sonata form, so we hear anew, in the light of what has just preceded, material with which we are already familiar.

In the following movement, marked Largo cantabile (but which seemed to have some of the qualities of a Scherzo), Haydn gives another orchestral theme, a hymn-like one, in which we may hear a marching motif. Next, before the opening material recurred, darker tones from the second violin (Garfield Jackson), which were expansively worked on by his fellow violinist, Andrew Watkinson, and with a virtuoso feel to the string-writing.

The opening theme seems to be subjected to some brief variations, before the darker tones return, and then more of the virtuoso style of the first violin, but which seems to become increasingly out of tempo with the measure that the rest of the quartet is beating - almost as if 'Papa' Haydn is depicting a state of inebriation ? This curious quality to the quartet continued with the Menuetto : Allegretto, which had a strange opening figure, and then set the first violin, with quirkily spiky gestures, against the other players.

In turn, the gestures became even more quirkily accented. Rather than have, per se a Minuet followed by a Trio section, Haydn gives us, after a rather odd Menuetto, an Allegretto that seems curiously dislocated, and almost as if his composition is assembled around dance-like rhythms. The Finale : Presto opens with the three instruments other than the first violin, and then, when it enters (in a lively and open way), we perceive it as distinct, again, from the trio of other instruments.

Even so, this movement seemed most like what one expects from Haydn, when writing for the forces of string quartet, and he uses, as his driving force, the sort of chirping that one gets from repeated notes and trills. He takes us into the minor, and is then modulating, as the work draws to a conclusion – with the strong impression, still, of the first violin as a maverick loner.

When, next, Andrew Watkinson spoke from the stage (from and for The Endellion String Quartet ~ @EndellionQt), and then we heard him play in the Mendelssohn, it became quickly apparent that the character of the first violin part is not his, but Haydn’s.

He had been addressing us to draw our attention to the next concert, on Wednesday 26 April 2017, and to commend both the work by Anton Arensky to be performed (the String Quartet for Violin, Viola and Two Cellos in A Minor, Op. 35), and the fact that, needing a second cellist (and only one violinist), Laura van der Heijden (@LauraVDHCello) was to be a guest perfomer. The following Tweets refer…

Mendelssohn ~ String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80 (1847)

1. Allegro vivace assai

2. Allegro assai

3. Adagio

4. Finale : Allegro molto

The second string quartet in the first half, for knowing which a debt is owed to The Coull Quartet (when they¹ played at Cambridge Music Festival in around 2004), began with a nicely-judged combination of sensitivity, passion and tension, so much so that sitting back and listening to the music, rather than – concentrate the mind and one’s hearing though it does – doing so with much eye to review-notes, seemed recommended. In the concluding bars, which were suitably vigorous, Mendelssohn completes the overall impression made by the Allegro vivace assai.

The second movement (marked Allegro assai) has been anticipated in the first, and was boldly played, but not excessively so, and so one could enjoy the lugubrious bass-line, with Mendelssohn’s murky colourings. As the opening material recurred, it was with a quality of insistence to it, but only to give way to a reappearance of the quieter mood, and, after some tail-notes and pizzicato playing, ending pianissimo.

The Adagio has a quietly reflective, and restrained mood. To it, we heard contributions made by low cello-notes (David Waterman), as if in a sadly thoughtful vein. The cello takes its place hesitantly in the general section, but as if then using patterns of notes to stir itself. The movement became enlivened and impassioned, but these feelings subsided, and it came to a very quiet close.

Mendelssohn builds his Finale from tonally ambiguous material, as well as prominent gestures, and The Endellion Quartet created a texture that swelled from placid to turbulent. Though they are very differently written and characterized from those in Haydn’s piece, it also has passages for the first violin against the trio of other instruments. One really did feel this as Allegro molto, pushing onwards, expressively and, in doing so, rhythmically – a final movement that is so full of drama that it is a conclusion without fully seeming like a resolution for all that we have been feeling.

It was a true pleasure to hear this work again live, and in such a strongly felt performance.

The auditorium of West Road Concert Hall

Brahms ~ String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2 (1873)

1. Allegro non troppo

2. Andante moderato

3. Quasi Minuetto, moderato

4. Finale : Allegro non assai

Prominent in the opening of the first movement (marked Allegro non troppo) was a long held note from David Waterman (on cello) before we moved into the ‘sunny’ and airy material, with pizzicato cello, that makes this composition shine - especially with The Endellion String Quartet sounding so well together, with a very good ensemble.

Seamlessly, Brahms takes us back into the (sometimes) tempestuous initial theme, with its bold statements, and fluidity in the writing, which is as compelling as in the better-known Piano Quintet in F Minor, Opus 34 (although his string quartets generally receive less attention than they deserve). With the recurrence of the more cheery theme, his emphasis is on the viola (Ralph de Souza), before - as if at the end of a complete work - the movement closes very definitely.

In the Andante moderato, the cello was again to fore, and the players and their sounds in perfect balance. The measured development had a suspensive, shy start, and then, led by a strong line from the cello, a passage marked (at least) forte, but which Brahms lets dissipate (as he might in the symphonies).

Ruminatively, and sotto voce, the writing seems – or, rather, makes us – unsure about which key it is in at any time, and as if it dare not decide. Then, a measured, lingering cello-line, appearing to be tempting the other instruments ‘to talk’, and which so brings about a small crescendo. Via rhythmic patterning from the cello, and then a passage of high notes on its upper string, we are brought to a soft close, with viola pizzicato.

The slow movement, an Adagio, begins – as did one in the Haydn – with twinned sets of assertions, here feeling to be delicately placed into the aether, before we move into a fast, and lighter, section that resembles a fugato. A cascade of notes develops, flowing between the instruments, but with Brahms moving us so cleverly between sections that it seems quite natural and casual. Cello-notes and a few sympathetic strokes bring the movement to an end.

At the start of the Finale (an Allegro non assai), the first violin, before passing the material to the viola, is answered by the cello, which, before we have a reprise of where we began, leads to some fugal writing. Another cello-line, again high up, was introduced to join sounds made by gentle strokes from the other players, just before Brahms evokes the opening of the work, and then, with some vigorous pizzicato, brings it to a spirited end.

A hugely enjoyable evening with these insightful players, and who are playing works, written within ninety years of each other², that are much in need of an airing !

End-notes :

¹ Do quartets like to be 'they' or 'it' ? (It rather matters more to try to please than whether it is ‘The company is’ or ‘The company are’, except by striving to be consistent.)

² Even with different ideas of adulthood, and reaching maturity, two of these composers could never have met as adults (Mendelssohn was born in the year of Haydn's death), and Mendelssohn and Brahms barely so, but the music passes between them...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

A night of all Tchaikovsky with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

29 November

This is a review of an all-Tchaikovsky programme given at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge, by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Christoph Koeing, and with Laura van der Heijden as cello soloist, on Tuesday 24 November 2015 at 7.30 p.m.

The playing of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (@rpoonline) had last been previewed on these pages, in advance of a concert at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge (@CambridgeCornEx), when they were to give a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Opus 55, under Christoph Koenig. They returned with a concert of works, solely by Tchaikovsky.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) :

1. ‘Fantasy Overture’ Romeo and Juliet, TH 42, ČW 39 (1869 (revised 1880))

2. Variations on a Rococo Theme, for cello and orchestra, Opus 33 (1877)

3. Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Opus 64 (1888)

The opening statement of the (1) ‘Fantasy Overture’ Romeo and Juliet almost evoked Greek Orthodox chant, but flourished into another kind of beauty and tranquillity, with a sense of space given by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s (@rpoonline’s) subtle pizzicato. As the sound built emotively, still it felt to be delaying – whether we knew the piece, and what Christoph Koenig was having the ensemble delay for – and even when, with percussive reinforcement, there was a pulsing, it was heard dying away in the woodwind and brass.

Not so in the strings, which maintained the momentum, and heralded the gorgeous melody (which it is convenient to refer to as ‘the love theme’), although it did still cut away to piano. When we hear the blossoming of the theme, it is understated – harp, strings and the plangency of the oboe are ‘in reserve’. Koenig established Tchaikovsky’s tension through a suspensive mood, which broke out into a very forceful passage for timpani and brass in a whirl, and then quickly dissolved to woodwind over brass over lower strings.

The love theme is drawn forth with rich brass, but it gives way to the strings to explore another crescendo, and the theme is vanquished by an impassioned statement. Except that, in a coda with a pizzicato bass-pulse, which resolves the earlier monastic feel in the woodwind, we have the apotheosis of the love theme in measured terms : the work can conclude with the usual cadences, timpani and brass to the fore.

The initial section of the (2) Variations feels fresh, and opens in media res. It has an amiable conversationality to it, and cellist Laura van der Heijden (@LauraVDHCello) was clear and unfussy in making a statement of the principal theme for the work, yet bringing out the (good-)humour and its feeling. Tchaikovsky, through adept use of linking passages, brings us first into the variations, and then from one to the next : the first was as of a promenade, with winsome phrasing, whereas the second resembled the soloist in conversation with the orchestra, about the urbanity of their treatment of this material.

Next, came a sunset-tinged emotion, supported at its reticent heart by woodwind, and desirous of being heard, with which Tchaikovsky contrasted a mood with quiet flute and clarinet and pizzicato strings – van der Heijden was inward looking, as if to deeper things, and in improvisatory mode. After this time, in which (and in the preceding variation) the origins of the heart of the work can be located, Tchaikovsky concentrates on the upper strings of the cello in the next variation, with our soloist bringing out the accents in the writing, and Koenig creating an expansive feeling in the orchestra.

From here, and despite sprightly additions from principal flute Helen Keen, the work is not always brighter, but it is increasingly virtuosic : with trills and use of tremolo, some intense cadenza-like writing in the bass register, and even the impression of Tchaikovsky seeking to continue to explore it (even at the cost of keeping off reaching a finale) ? Eventually, this intense solo reverie does conclude, and it led into what van der Heijden and Koenig gave a distinct Scottish feel. It is vigorous writing for cello, played with liveliness and keen phrasing, and there are interactions between soloist and instrumentalists that keep us guessing as to the composer’s overall direction :

He gives us quick tutti sections, and ones where the soloist is moving over pizzicato strings : we heard van der Heijden going to the theme and unearthing more in it (as if it were a mineral-seam), and one minute being soulful on the lowest string, but then with brisk octaves and harmonics. Not just because there is nowhere else to go from here, and any set of variations must end (even if, with perhaps the most famous set (BWV 988), Bach movingly takes us back to the Aria where we began), Tchaikovsky momentarily jumps to quite another frame of mind to close the work, and to great applause for van der Heijden, who had clearly much impressed in her appearance at The Corn Exchange.

* * * * *

Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Opus 64 (1888) :

1. Andante - Allegro con anima
2. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza
3. Valse - Allegro moderato
4. Andante - Allegro maestoso

In (3) the Symphony No. 5, the clarinets quietly stated the opening theme of the Andante, on which Tchaikovsky has the bassoons and strings enlarge. Gradually, over time, Koenig led us into the energy of the Allegro con anima (which, as it emerged, did feel like ‘anima’, in a fully spirited sense), and we were introduced to the counter-theme, before the initial one returned, but with interruptions / interjections.

In a way, we were back to the opening of the concert, and the language and emotion of the Fantasy Overture, with that same sense of the composer in a whirlwind, exploring in, out and around the material. In all this, the RPO, under Koeing, was using dynamics very carefully, and the movement, and its close, were very understated.

As a second movement slowly starting and marked Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza (which means ‘with some freedom’), this one is quite a bit shorter, and begins with an emotional tutti, which nevertheless felt inward and restrained, and then a quiet solo horn superposed to give a tender statement of thematic content (with some support from the principal clarinet). Even as the horn is concluding, Tchaikovsky picks out moving his attention, for a cognate theme to be passed from oboe to clarinet to the basses.

Principal horn Laurence Davies, now with other woodwind players and more prominent orchestral accompaniment, revisited that theme, which is soon given over to string immersion : it develops to a soaring passage, but is ultimately held back, and leads to contributions in a folk idiom on clarinet, which the bassoon then brings out. Revolving the material results in a passionate crescendo, concluding with strings, timpani and horns (in a theme that will be heard, in less un-triumphant form, at the close of the work).

The mood calmed to first violins pizzicato, and with woodwind and brass, which felt like it might be an easier formulation for the symphony (and its composer) on which to meditate, and then gave rise to a full, unrestrained statement. A vigorous counter-melody came from the brass, but afterwards a decrescendo to a softer, more exposed, and very quiet end.

In comparison, not least, with what has gone before, Koenig made the Valse feel effortless, and it went with a sway, first the basses offering comments, and then the principal flute and oboe, and so on. When Tchaikovsky does bring us back to the feeling of the opening, Koenig drew out more of a sense of the quirkiness in the horn part. Before drawing the movement to a definite and quick close, he had Paul Boyes bring out the main theme, in sombre guise, on bassoon.

At the same time that the closing movement opened Andante, with a statement of the principal theme, we heard a hesitant one of subsidiary material*, and then Tchaikovsky opens out into variation form : fast, rhythmical writing that dominates our attention, and heralds bell-like descending motifs.

More peal-like gestures follow, treating the theme as a short fanfare, and could be heard in the strings and the brass, before arpeggiated string-writing ushered in a sudden tutti, and yet further figurations as of bells. Tchaikovsky takes the related theme through a series of rising modulations, and, on drawing in the timpani and brass, Koenig led the orchestra into a crescendo, which, with a drum-roll, fell back again to the second theme.

The close to the symphony, which now felt very ceremonious (hence the dignity conferred by Allegro maestoso), established the falling motifs and peals in their place, with the strings taking the latter up and down in celebration, ably assisted by the brass, including trombones. Its coda was characterized by a very quick, rising passage, building up to a full close – with full brass, woodwind, and timpani.

All in all, a very pleasurable and successful evening with Tchaikovsky, through Koenig and the RPO's welcome residency in Cambridge : a few years ago on The South Bank, Martyn Brabbins gave all of Beethoven's Symphonies in one day, so who know whether a Tchaikovsky all-nighter of the Concertos and Symphonies would appeal to Cambridge... ?


* A little as with Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)