Tim Homfray attends the performance of Dvořák and Tchaikovsky at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 3 December 2023
This Philharmonia concert had a good Christmas Sunday afternoon family programme, with Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty at the end and Dvořák to begin. The orchestra gave dashing accounts of the first three of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances op.46, before Gil Shaham came on to perform the A minor Violin Concerto. This is essentially an upbeat piece, but should anyone have been in any doubt, Shaham had a beaming smile on his face, which remained there pretty much throughout the concerto. He got the bit between his teeth straight away, with playing of boundless vitality, robust and brilliant, seemingly relishing his own virtuosity. After the long fluent opening statement of the second movement, he was firm-toned in the central section, in the company of some fine horn playing, and produced exquisite pianissimos and some shapely passagework after the trumpet fanfares.
Shaham revelled in the dance rhythms of the finale, leaning into the rhythmic heart of every phrase and all but singing along with the orchestra when he wasn’t playing. It was all done with an ease and panache which belied its technical demands. He ended with a terrific virtuoso flourish and another broad grin. The orchestra under Santtu-Matias Rouvali was an excellent, sensitive partner.