City of London Sinfonia with Natalie Clein – The Forum, Saturday Nov 26th
Dance rippled through this programme like a thread of bright silk. From the dancing pastoral Andante of Mozart’s ‘Haffner’Symphony No 35; through Tchaikovsy’s ‘Variations on a Rococo Theme’ with its woodwind ritornello, echoing his ballet scores; to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, described by Wagner as ‘the apotheosis of Dance’.
It was also classicism at its cheerful and elegant best; an oyster in whose heart was a dark pearl: the soul-searching cello cadenza of Rococo Variation No. 5.
To say that Natalie Clein plays her cello is understatement: she breathes the music like one possessed, seeming to meld with her instrument in a passionate ballet. Young and elfin, with world-class talent, she skips onstage; then lifts the listener into other worlds, stretching the sound of the cello to its utmost horizons and beyond. She sustained a superb dialogue throughout with conductor Jason Thornton and the orchestra, who responded and supported her perfectly and with tender subtlety, especially in the pizzicato passages.
Thornton and the CLS conveyed the theatricality and wit of Mozart’s‘Haffner’ Symphony with lightness and precision. This was contrasted later, as basses, cellos and violas began the heart-meltingly romantic theme of Rococo Variation No. 3. The orchestra’s wonderful range of colour, tone and texture reached perfection in the Beethoven, where they performed the final Allegro con Brio with almost frenzied mastery.
This stunning International Concert Series continues with 'The Messiah' on December 22nd.
Imogen Cooper - Schubert - A major Piano Sonata (D. 959)
The Dante Quartet with cellist Thomas Carroll – Schubert - String Quintet in C major (D. 956)
Imogen Cooper engages her audience visually: as you watch, she seems to sculpt the music into four-dimensional form. The drama of this Sonata was masterfully expressed, with grandeur in the Allegro followed by light cascading notes and a renewal of tension. A sense of deep thought was felt throughout the song-like F# minor Andantino, even through the turbulent passages. The excitement of the final Allegretto was dramatically sustained until the last note.
It is easy to forget that ‘late music’ can be by composers who died young. The opening movement of the Quintet has sweet, wistful harmonies, like a summer afternoon under willows by a river. The Adagio traces an inner meditation, in which the initial theme is reworked philosophically, with a romantic consciousness of love and death. These five players, whose average age is similar to Schubert’s when he wrote the piece, brought out its colour and romantic feeling with the full range of each instrument. It was a beautiful performance with well-deserved, ecstatic applause at the end.