There are times when words fail, and this is one of those occasions. Feel free to read no further, because what follows cannot be described better than simply “perfect”.
The orchestra was London’s Academy of St. Martin In The Fields and the soloist-director was non-less than Julia Fischer. All potentially perfect thus far, it seems.
The program in the ADDA auditorium, Alicante, was an intriguing mix, with two pieces from the classical or early romantic era, mixed with two pieces from the non-atonal style of the twentieth century. Such programs can often come unstuck through a lack of focus. This one worked perfectly.
The Rondo For Violin And Orchestra Deutsch438 by Franz Schubert which began the program was a celebration of the melodic, beautiful lines for beauty’s sake. Julia Fischer’s solo playing appeared to be effortless, displaying the kind of complete perfection and ease that can only be achieved through absolute dedication. But what was also obvious was that this playing, orchestra and soloist combined, was not founded merely on technique, but of an undiluted joy that came from being able to communicate via music. And what was also clear from the start was the strong and mutually enjoyed bond that developed between the orchestra in the guest director. And perhaps this is a close as Schubert approached to the concerto. It was perfectly delightful.
Britten’s Variations On A Theme Of Frank Bridge is a work that, personally, I have never warmed to, its highly episodic nature often not sustaining my interest through a recording. But what recorded sound often cannot convey is the sheer beauty of the sonorities that Benjamin Britten exploits in the piece. The Academy Of Saint Martin In The Fields not only played this piece perfectly, but they also brought out all the nuances of expression that Britten wrote. Hearing the work for the first time in concert had the effect of assembling what had previously only been experienced as isolated sketches into a major work. Separately, these pieces sound interesting. Together the create a picture of a personality, far from perfect, but perfectly portrayed. The experience was perfectly magical.
Mozart’s Rondo For Violin And Orchestra K373 is hardly his most memorable work. But in the hands of this orchestra and with Julia Fisher as soloist, this was five minutes of a standup comedian, a monologue full of wit and humor, like a child captivated by the process of keeping a balloon in the air. A perfect image.
By contrast, the Chamber Symphony Op110a by Shostakovich that followed presented a work of vast, contrasting depth and not a little psychological anguish. Dedicated to the fallen in war, but certainly with its gaze focused firmly inwards, it presents an acerbic view of humanity. Perhaps the performers might fall at this very different hurdle? Well, they did not. Far from it. The playing and interpretation probably got even better, if there is a level higher than perfection. The eighth quartet, of which this chamber symphony is an arrangement by Rudolph barchai, is monumental. It also finds much of its power in the interaction, often argumentative, between the solo instruments. Potentially this tension could be reduced in the version for string orchestra, but the addition of the double bases married to the perfect cohesion of the string players and, not least, the skill of the arranger ensured that none of the drama, none of the impact was lessened. I proved perfectly moving.
A theme from a Tchaikovsky Souvenir was a little lollipop offered as an after. After the drama of the Shostakovich, it was a little out of place, but nothing slipped below the established level of consistent perfection.