Saturday, August 28, 2021, Royal Albert Hall, London
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 7.30 p.m.
Having conducted Thursday’s Prom, Ilan Volkov stayed on to replace Thomas Dausgaard for an unaltered Bartók concert, including the indigenous Folktone Band (violin, viola, double bass, cimbalom), presenting Hungarian folk-tunes as Bartók might have heard them when collecting such ditties a century ago with his friend Kodály (who should not be forgotten). Scintillating stuff from the quartet, Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto unwisely sampled in the mix, which was soon to be heard complete anyway, launched attacca from a fading-away Folktone selection.
The self-styled PatKop gave an exaggerated account of the solo part (attentively if prudently accompanied, it must be said, albeit with distant details, at times, as broadcast) – fiery, wild, ethereal, played-around-with, the violinist seemingly not worried about souring her tone (her bow digging in) and extremes of tempo. One admires her commitment and bravura, and sheer confidence – and there were instances, all of them in the slow movement, where she touched the heart; but, overall, on this occasion, PatKop was trying too hard, the music at times secondary to her doing ‘something’ with it. However, the first encore was touchingly effective, and then exuberant – something by Ligeti, PatKop duetting with Laura Samuel (BBCSSO leader) – then one of Bartók’s Duos, nominally for two fiddles, with the orchestra!
The second half followed a similar pattern: Folktone (superbly stylish, with no need to milk things) and BBCSSO intertwined, a longer sequence this time, and then, as the quartet trod a path away, the early Suite No.2 entered, not one of Bartók’s masterpieces and rarely performed (if fairly recently recorded by this orchestra and Dausgaard). Bartók would certainly be one of a few composers on a ‘listening blind’ shortlist in music that meanders and lacks for identity (unlike Suite No.1), and ends inconclusively, although it does paint pictures. The BBC Scottish and Volkov did their very best with it.