Photo, Andy Paradise

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Christian Tetzlaff proved himself a poised and passionate advocate of Elgar’s Violin Concerto (for Fritz Kreisler) in wonderful partnership with Sakari Oramo, already established as a distinguished Elgarian (recordings on BIS), here with an introductory tutti both expansive and potent. Tetzlaff’s virtuosity was unstinting as well as music-serving, his confiding playing especially telling with pared-down dynamics, the first movement ebbing and flowing as a fantasia, the slow one soulful if spontaneous, coming to contented rest, and the Finale (launched attacca, otherwise that clique of clappers would once again have intruded insensitively) athletic and fiery, also yearning, with the ‘accompanied cadenza’ a few minutes of deeply-felt if restless reflection, the Concerto’s conclusion a surge of speed and vivid communication into the majestic ending. Tetzlaff’s encore was J. S. Bach, the Andante from the A-minor Sonata, BWV1003, very expressive and nicely of the moment.

Opening the concert, its title owing to Philip Larkin, Master of the King’s Music Judith Weir’s Begin Afresh (BBC commission: world premiere) reflects the composer’s arboreal interests and might be subtitled ‘a calendar of trees’, music that is lyrical, energetic and optimistic, strikingly scored too, not least for piano and brass twelve minutes in (of about sixteen) leading to radiance. Very fine piece, to which Schumann’s ‘Spring’ Symphony (No.1) was the ideal complement, given a joyous outing by Oramo who ensured that the much-criticised orchestration was clear and well-balanced, the rhythms buoyant, details sparkling, Oramo’s personal touches illuminating, the music generous and beguiling in response, song and dance in symphonic form, with repeats observed in the outer movements. This last of Sakari Oramo’s four-concert Proms 2023 appearances was once-again notable.