The VFO’s penultimate outing at the Verbier Festival with Antonio Pappano concluded in blistering fashion with a comprehensive performance of Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben.
The performance of Brahms’ second piano concerto in the first-half wasn’t without fault however, with intonation issues during exposed sequences highlighting one of the challenges in the composer’s epic 50 minute work.
Even when the band didn’t quite meet the challenge head on, the spine still tingled. The cello solo at the beginning of the third movement was divine, so too the exchange between piano and (albeit slightly flat) woodwind at the height of the Andante. That the final chord of the third movement corrected itself reassures me that the technical issues were more to do with atmospherics than a lack of ability.
Pappano had been meticulous in coaching a seductive warmth from his considerable string section throughout the work too. The strings undoubtedly shone.
Ein Heldenleben was the anticipated highlight. The VFO delivered. The solo violinist approached the part with enviable attention to detail and undeniable passion for his art.
The off-stage brass were jaw-droppingly good and deserved far more of a cheer than they actually received at the end of the performance.
Strings were a little skiddy on some of the top notes, and from time to time there were some beats were anticipated more than required. But, like the Brahms, any technical errors were overshadowed by towering musicality both in the players and conductor.
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Pictures: Aline Paley / Verbier Festival 2017