This was the opening performance in St David’s Hall’s new International Concert Series. This year’s is a fantastic season both in repertoire and artists and features orchestras including the Staatskapelle Dresden and London Symphony.
The concert opened with a ‘Scherzo Fantastique’ by Josef Suk, a work unfamiliar to most. Järvi’s direction led the orchestra through a wonderful execution, demonstrating Suk’s nationalist and folk influences superbly.
Next was Schumann’s only piano concerto, with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. Bavouzet is very much a character, and entered the stage with as much pizzazz as that with which he went on to perform the concerto. His enthusiasm and physical motion made an enthralling performance of a work not always thought of in this way.
Dvorák’s New World Symphony completed the programme, with Järvi making some fairly unorthodox decisions about tempi. The first movement set off at quite a pace, much faster than one expects to hear it but this lent it a driven excitement that it was easy to be carried along with. The slow movement, however, did become a little turgid in the middle as it was played rather slowly. That said, the cor anglais solo was performed with beautiful, elegant tone.
The orchestra, throughout the concert, showed a little too much disregard for the music and came across, as professional orchestras sometimes can, as being bored of the music they were playing. Whether or not this may be the case, other orchestras tend to hide the fact a little better. At the end of the slow movement in the symphony, the orchestration was stripped back to the front 8 string players, who didn’t seem to be able to finish phrases together. This was a little too noticeable.
That said, the audience was ever appreciative, with a contingent of what might be termed ‘groupies’ on their feet and whooping away in an upper tier at the end of the concert. Several other audience members also stood as Järvi encouraged the whoopers, who kept the applause and thrilling atmosphere going for a good few minutes.