A warm work that is precisely realised

Article from:Cape Times (South Africa) Article date:April 26, 2010

SYMPHONY CONCERT, City Hall, Thursday, 15th; CPO conducted by Martin Panteleev, soloist Simone Lamsma: Mozart: Overture to Idomeneo, K.366; Khachaturian: Violin Concerto; Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Op 14. DEON IRISH reviews

IT IS always interesting to attend a concert directed by a conductor making his first appearance with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) on the City Hall podium. Cape Town being the musical village it is, one generally bumps into some player in the course of the week who will volunteer an opinion about the qualities of the new arrival.

Players can be extremely harsh critics, although they see things from a different perspective. On this occasion, however, I had heard nothing of the man by the time he strode on to the stage at the beginning of the concert.

"Purposeful" is a fairly useful adjective to describe his conducting approach. It was apparent in the opening overture, but even more so in the accompaniment that followed: Panteleev is focused entirely on the business of making the music happen, with an economy of movement, a lack of self-awareness and a restraint from the grand gesture that is wholly commendable.
It translates into orchestral playing that is crisp, responsive and well-balanced - as is apparent in the precise classicism of one of Mozart's own favourite works, to the revolutionary genius of the self-indulgent work by Berlioz. Which is not to say that Panteleev overlooks the musical; but one is left with the impression that the impulses of his heart are routed through his intellect and that nothing is ill-considered or spur of the moment.

He is himself a gifted violinist and a prize-winning composer, with three symphonies to his name. It is perhaps that perspective that compels in him an obvious desire to recreate a score according to the composer's own intentions. Mozart's opera Idomeneo premiered in Munich in 1781, for which he had the services of what he called the finest orchestra in the world - the combined resources of the Mannheim and Munich courts. It is a serious overture, without the feathery flounces of the Figaro or impresario examples of the genre. This was a taut and idiomatic reading that brought out the musical structure with distinction.

There followed Khachaturian's only concerto for the violin (1940), a companion piece to that for piano (1936), and for cello (1946). It is not a great work, but its overt orientalism provides much that is attractive.

Lamsma is a very fine instrumentalist and brought all of her artistry to the score, playing with fidelity and technical assurance, particularly in the spiky writing of the outer movements. The passage work of the final movement showed her spot-on intonation and easy bowing style.
But it was the lovely central movement that captivated, with Lamsma delivering its long violin arioso with serene phrasing, affectionately supported by orchestral wind and string contributions.

Finally, the great Berlioz symphony, a work of seminal importance. The programme note opined that the most astonishing thing about the work is that it was composed in 1830, only three years after Beethoven's death. It could have added that Schubert died in 1828, the year of his Ninth Symphony, which we heard a week ago.

This is even more remarkable when one considers that the same year - 1830 - produced Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and Reformation Symphony and Chopin's First Piano Concerto - and the two composers were younger than Berlioz by about seven years.

Panteleev led us through the complex score with a degree of caution.