Reviews of the best classical music concerts of November 2022 in Britain
Increasing diversity may be the long-term strategy for winning new audiences for classical music, but in the meantime, busy managers know there’s no such thing as the “dream ticket” of an international orchestra. leading and a leading soloist to attract bettors. It certainly worked its magic on Friday night, when what many consider to be the best orchestra in the world, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, was joined by Leonidas Kavakos, arguably the world’s most bankable violinist. Before the concert, the crowded foyers had this fever of excitement that I haven’t felt since those distant pre-Covid days.
The exorbitant expectations of bettors were well rewarded, with a program that certainly did not mark any adventurous side: Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. For that very reason, it was received with particular delight, as it felt like a defiant assertion of the value of maintaining a great tradition – something the Arts Council of England no longer believes in, judging by funding decisions it made on Friday. When the orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding settled almost timidly into the soft opening of Brahms’ concerto, one could already feel the sleeping power in the orchestra, which quickly burst forth. This powerful buildup led to the explosive entry of Kavakos, who had exactly the magnificent and tragically heroic quality one hopes for.
This reminded us of the superhuman strength of your Kavakos tone, but would it also be sensitive to the tender and intimate side of this multifaceted work? Yes, was the answer, but in this respect he shared the honors with the orchestra. Even when Kavakos was in full flight, my attention was often grabbed by an expressive bassoon or viola phrase. Even Kavakos cannot overshadow the Concertgebouw. The fruity richness of the playing and the sensitive molding of Harding’s tempos meant that details I’d never noticed – like the moment the music slips into the sensually swaying world of Brahms’ Liebeslieder (Love Song) waltzes – suddenly shines.
As for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Harding conducted a rendition of rich, easy amplitude that with a lesser orchestra might have seemed sluggish, but with this vintage Rolls-Royce it sounded beautifully spacious. This meant that in moments of peasant rowdiness, when the horns blew and the fiddles cavorted, the contrast really sat up. My only caveat is that the innocently swinging final movement got so relaxed towards the end that I thought it might actually stop. But really, it was a wonderful evening. If you’re free tonight and can attend the second Concertgebouw concert, drop everything and go.
The Royal Concertgebouw is at the Barbican tonight at 7.30pm; barbican.org.uk