28 February 2007

Too much Christmas pudding

The RSNO’s concert at the Royal Concert Hall last Saturday was rather heavy going. It got off to a good start with a fine performance of Sibelius’s Valse Triste. After that it rapidly went downhill. The next item was Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, which is one of my favourite pieces of music. Unfortunately the conductor (Alexander Lazarev) and soloist (Boris Belkin) failed to do the piece justice. Belkin didn’t so much play his instrument as savage it with his bow. More lyrical virtuosity and less aggression would have suited me better. Interestingly, I am not alone in that assessment. Michael Tumelty, writing in The Herald, suggests that Sibelius’s ghost could be heard wailing over the mistreatment of his music.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Elgar’s Second Symphony. I didn’t know the piece and I didn’t warm to it. For some reason, the phrase ‘overblown Edwardian romanticism’ comes to mind. Someone suggested to me that it was like eating ‘an over-rich Christmas pudding served up with too much double cream’ and we certainly left the concert hall with precisely that feeling of satiation verging on discomfort rather than pleasure.

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