Tim Homfray went to the Royal Festival Hall concert on 11 May 2019
Viktoria Mullova gave a truly imperious account of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto at this concert. It was severe in some ways, with no time for easy beauty, despite her constantly glorious tone, rich, silvery and always perfectly focused. The cadenzas were magnificent, dramatic and dark (as indeed was the Philharmonia under Paavo Järvi, with stark and vivid brass playing). She drove through the final section of the first movement with fervent dramatic purpose. In the Adagio she wove a finely detailed narrative, a sad story full of expressive nuances: a note leant on here, a touch more vibrato there, a phrase pushed through with a hint of rubato.
In the finale, that high-wire tour de force that has tripped up many a top-flight violinist, she was superb. Järvi took it at a fair speed, but Mullova drove through the double-stopped scales and up-bow spiccato with impeccable rhythmic precision and technical accuracy. Throughout she looked poised and cool, effortlessly in command, but her playing spoke of passion and fire. For an encore she gave a vigorous performance of Arvo Pärt’s Passacaglia for violin and orchestra. Together with powerful accounts of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony, this was a remarkable concert.
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