With three romantic works by Elgar and Brahms, well-suited to the late spring atmosphere, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Pinchas Zukerman managed to dazzle and touch the audience’s hearts almost seamlessly. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are one of the household names in the recording world, and while conductor Pinchas Zukerman is perhaps not considered a ‘star’, he is certainly someone associated with numerous grand recordings and innovative approaches in musical pedagogy.
To contrast a lukewarm welcome were the first few notes of Edward Elgar’s ‘Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20’, which brought delicate, beautiful and instant emotions to the audience, showing that the orchestra’s string section has truly few rivals in the world.
The dynamics were as pleasurable to the senses as their delivery, and were well coordinated. They certainly helped to create fairytale-like sensations, something that most of the heavyweight Slavic orchestras could learn from, despite their famed ability to portray the most tender of lyrical depths.
In classical music concerts, it can often taken some time before the experience is transformed from merely sonic into emotional. However, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra immediately went straight for the heart, and did so beautifully. Enigma Variations, a well-known work of Elgar’s, seemed like a logical choice to continue the enchantment with quality, rather than emotion, since this work is at times more focused on technical perfection.
With percussion and brass instruments joining the violins’ synchronous sway, the concert faced its first challenge in keeping the audience happy, and with the intense intervention of drums, and the somewhat coarse entrance of the brass section, the orchestra sadly did not excel. However, the conductor reacted well to this mood change by eliciting emotional curve through blending with the orchestra rather than asserting the tone. The creation of a dialogue between the lyrical and the dramatic offered a more balanced sound, and the atmosphere improved again.
The viola solo was nothing short of phenomenal, and great sensitivity was applied in creating symphoncity. The audience showed their appreciation in the applause that followed.
The Double Concerto in ‘A minor, Op. 102’ is the last orchestral work by Johannes Brahms and it displays a three-way relationship between the orchestra, violin and cello. Zukerman part replaced the conductor’s baton for a violin bow and gave the centre podium to his wife Amanda Forsyth, a cellist. However, after a few minutes, he decided to conduct using his hand. After a few encounters of cello and violin, it became evident that both musicians were technically an exemplary pair, but their performances were somewhat lacking in charm. At lower keys, the cellist managed to establish good communication with the other instruments, and there were times when both soloists showed virtuosity.
The second movement again brought waves of excellence from the orchestra and beautiful playing from the soloists, which was satisfying and created beautiful passages.
As the concert began to approach its climax, all sounds were like a high-quality EMI recording delivering highs of one of the foremost British orchestras in a great musical experience.
The orchestra played the final note so well that any loosely-attached fillings almost certainly fell out of many a tooth. The emphatic applause clearly showed that the audience had appreciated the performance, with a man in the back row shouting “Bravo!”
Despite the less than perfect musical blend in some parts of the performance, to ignore the grandeur of the delivery of the three works would be impossible and unfair. With many subtle sounds and dynamic passages, a 2000-strong crowd witnessed what was a beautiful night of music in Barcelona.