Season Finale

Dates and Venue 7 and 9 June 2008 @ 8pm and 8 June @ 2 pm | The Orpheum Theatre

Delius Song of Summer Dvořák Cello Concerto Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott

Reviewer J H Stape

Among words wafting in the post-concert scrum for the door were: "Magnificent," "Great," and "Thrilling." And this was no mere gush to describe an evening whose many and deep pleasures began with its first gentle and evocative bars.

A spellbinding performance of the Dvořák Cello Concerto by Daniel Müller -Shott was followed by a towering reading of Shostakovich's sprawling emotional roller-coast of a masterwork, his 5th Symphony. Feeling spoiled, were we? Yes, indeed!

In a city where summer has been ... err, elusive, Delius's charming "A Song of Summer" (1929-30) ably did the honours where Mother Nature has proved so reluctant. This brightly polished Impressionist gem was displayed to full advantage, the colours shimmering throughout, and delicacy and sensivity hallmarks of a fine and committed performance.

If lavish attention to detail was on offer for the opener, it was the central underpinning of a brilliant execution of Dvořák's 1896 Cello Concerto by both soloist and orchestra. That they had "clicked" during rehearsals was obvious at every turn in this white-heat performance, inspiration palpably flowing from one to the other and adding up to top-of-the-game energy.

Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott delivered on all counts: his interpretation had dazzling authority, his technique was impeccable, his playing was tasteful, his musical and technical skills of the very first order. The playing in the poetic Adagio went right for the jugular, reaching a level of almost unbearable intensity in the quasi-cadenza.

This was a quite simply a "stunning" performance by a young musician with star quality written all over him and whose name can already be added to the list of recent cello greats: Rostropovich, Starker, and Harrell. His return will be much anticipated. (The Symphony shop sold out his CDs some ten minutes into the intermission.)

And then there was Shostakovich, the orchestra delivering another no-hostages-taken reading of this score dating to 1937 but sounding still as if it were composed only a decade ago.

The adrenalin-charged Moderato began with quiet brooding, Maestro Tovey shaping the opening so that the later contrasts were even more vivid and sharp-edged. The Scherzo-like second movement was tightly focussed irony, and the playing radiant, while the Adagio, a prolonged sigh shot through with lyricism and soulful melancholy, emphasized the work's essentially contrastive structure. The rowdy Allegro non troppo close saw the orchestra in radiant form as cascades of sound brought a fine evening and a fine season to a roaring close.

It's no secret that the VSO has gone from strength to strength and is playing on a new level, offering consistently satisfying work. With programming as well conceived as this, it can guarantee a solid audience base, and the large number of "young people" and the diversity of the crowd suggests how right things are going.

Bravi tutti -- and that includes not only Maestro Tovey, a local but even national treasure, and the musicians, but also the Board and the front of the house too and the volunteers who work so hard, and in unsung fashion, to bring evenings so fine as this together week after week, and season after season.

© 2008 J H Stape