Wednesday 22 May 2019

Review: Violinist Maxim Vengerov at the National Concert Hall

Maxim Vengerov
Maxim Vengerov

Pat O'Kelly

The 150th anniversary of the Great Exhibition of 1865 proves a gala occasion at the National Concert Hall with the return of celebrity Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov.

His chosen concerto is Tchaikovsky’s, which he plays with sparkling panache and where his unassailable technique is combined with deeply rooted musical feeling.

Superbly accompanied by the RTÉ NSO, sympathetically directed by Robert Houlihan, Vengerov unveils the score with a beguiling lightness of touch. His precisely centred intonation continues to be one of his salient virtues as the concerto advances into its realms of dramatic dynamism.

But this is music in Vengerov’s blood and when Tchaikovsky demands brilliant pyrotechnics, he is not short changed. Vengerov’s approach has grandeur and intensity but it also engages intimate finesse.

Tchaikovsky’s melancholic Canzonetta movement finds Vengerov ethereally poetic with the NSO’s flute and clarinet section leaders, Caitríona Ryan and John Finucane, beautifully supportive.

Vengerov launches into the Finale with wild, but still controlled, extravagance. There is balletic swirl in his playing at a breathtaking tempo in this veritable tour de force. Despite all that Vengerov ensures the romantic heart of the music is constantly beating.

Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs, played with soulful sincerity, is the emotional encore.

The gala presents a second soloist with soprano Miriam Murphy floating in gold lamé through the vicissitudes of Isolde’s Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Ms Murphy takes the role in her formidable stride as massive waves of radiant tone swell above Wagner’s orchestral soundscape.

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