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Shchedrin, Shostakovich & Tchaikovsky

Shchedrin Lithuanian Saga
Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
LSO/Valery Gergiev

Barbican, London 25 March 2011

A brash and noisy opener, skilfully constructed but very much an occasional piece for a Lithuanian national occasion, was given with the composer present, and it proved a foil for a quite exceptional performance of the great Shostakovich Violin Concerto which followed, sounding ideal from prestigious seats back stalls at the Barbican.

Even still vivid memories of the occasion of the first broadcast of the concerto heard in UK (Oistrakh) were eclipsed by this, which left one feeling that Shostakovich No 1 really must be the finest of all violin concertos. Kavakos' mastery on his Abergavenny Strad was axiomatic, but we were riveted equallyby the pointing of the orchestral detail, and its careful economy so that the soloist was never overwhelmed and did not have to battle to be heard.

Balance was exemplary, and the recording being made ought to become a famous one in due course. The Passacagla is one of the greatest in all music, not excepting Bach's... After his standing ovation, Leonidas Kavakos treated the audience to a rapt account of a long JSB sarabande, with all the repeats, lengthening what was already to become a long concert.

Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony (the one without a real slow movement) allowed for more relaxed listening. Gergiev & the LSO were on their toes and did it proud; the finale is one best heard if you don't already know it...

The audience insisted in applauding between movements throughout the concert, despite Gergiev's efforts at dissuasion. Concert manners are changing with new and cosmopolitan audiences.

A great night at The Barbican.

Peter Grahame Woolf