Lively and Varied at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, 4****: William Ruff


Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra

October 30 2018

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham


Review: William Ruff


Jewel-like Bach, jazzy Bernstein, revolutionary Beethoven…in one Nottingham concert

In terms of their place in the musical encyclopaedia, the composers featured in Tuesday’s concert didn’t range very far (from B to…B).  But in every other respect the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra packed so much variety into the programme that it almost became three separate concerts.

Under their conductor Yutaka Sado, they opened with the Three Dance Episodes from Bernstein’s On the Town, packing enough Broadway pizzazz into their performance to banish any cold-night, mid-week blues there may have been in the audience.

The central ‘Lonely Town’ number with its Gershwin-inspired trumpet and clarinet solos made the orchestra sound as if it had hailed from New York rather than Vienna, as did the jazzy ‘Times Square’ ending.

And then for something completely different: two Bach keyboard concertos directed by soloist Angela Hewitt, the supreme Bach pianist in the world today.  Surrounded by a chamber-sized group of orchestral colleagues she crafted jewel-like performances of this profound, complex, deeply affecting music.

The ability of the piano to allow lines to sing was heard at its most poignant in the slow movements to the D minor and F minor concertos.  And there was no shortage of razor-sharp, transparently textured virtuosity in the finales too. As an encore she gave a mesmerizing account of the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

After the interval came Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, perhaps the ultimate concert warhorse but one that allows a seemingly infinite variety of interpretations.  Yutaka Sado emphasised its revolutionary aspects, in both a musical and political sense.  Dominating the orchestra were the trumpets (sitting high up at the back) and the timpani, made even fiercer by the use of hard sticks.

Dynamism, a meticulous approach to small details (e.g. fleeting crescendos for horns and woodwind at the opening) and an unflagging sense of tension were just some of the qualities which made this a memorable performance.

Audience enthusiasm demanded an encore and the Viennese visitors just so happened to have a little something with them in the form of Johann Strauss II’s Trisch-Trasch Polka.

Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra conducted by Yutaka Sado with Angela Hewitt, piano


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