Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields - Britten, Bach & Walton - 02/24/09

Conductor: Julia Fischer
Britten: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge - Julia Fischer
Bach: Violin Concerto in A Minor - Julia Fischer
Bach: Concerto for Violin No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042 - Julia Fischer
Walton: Sonata for Strings - Julia Fischer
For the past 50 years (Happy Gold Anniversary!), the prestigious Academy of St. Martin in the Fields has delighted English and foreign ears and, while they were at it, has also become the most recorded chamber music ensemble in the world (with over 500 recordings, for those who keep track of those things). Mostly well-known and well-liked as an über-talented young violinist, although she happens to be an accomplished pianist as well, Julia Fischer last night was scheduled to grace the Strathmore stage as their violin soloist AND conductor (über-and multi-talented, obviously). The combination of all these powerful musical forces (and Bach!) was just too good an opportunity to pass, so I went.

We started with quite a kaleidoscopic exercise in the form of Britten’s variations, which displayed an attractively wide range of various moods that a string orchestra can bring to life, and the result was a fairly quick succession of short pieces that were unpredictable and a lot of fun.
It’s difficult to go wrong with Bach, and having the good fortune to hear two of his violin concertos by such transcendentally good musicians just doubled the pleasure. I have to say that I find the sound of the harpsichord rather grating, and it has often been a major impediment to my appreciation of Baroque music, but luckily yesterday it remained discreet and did not interfere with my full enjoyment of these two delicately eloquent pieces. The orchestra and the soloist harmoniously collaborated together and the violin beautifully sang its lively solos.
Walton's Sonata for Strings was pretty much what its name announced. The music came to life bristling with grace and style thanks to an impeccably precise interpretation, and this final work on the program proved to be the ultimate gift for the string lover.

But this was not the end yet, and a little, elating movement by Mozart eventually concluded an evening of polished musical entertainement.

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