The Fiddlers

FRANK CLIFF St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

No one could possibly accuse the Britten Sinfonia of bland programmes - as often as not it's an eclectic mix of old and new music.

Last night's concert, directed by the violinist Pekka Kuusisto, fielded just such a programme. Kuusisto is a performer with a larger than life musical personality.

Einojuhani Rautavaara's The Fiddlers - four fantasias on folk tunes of Finland, coloured by the highly individual voice of the composer - proved a perfect vehicle to display Kuusisto's violinistic virtuosity and musical personality, as well as demonstrating the rapport he has developed with the orchestra.

However, the artistic results were somewhat disappointing in the second work, Bach's E major violin concerto.

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Here the rhythmic vitality of the two outer movements was degraded by very fast tempi, while the central adagio was bereft of any poetry for the same reason.

Kuusisto's exuberant virtuosity was much more at home in HK Gruber's Nebelsteinmusik a work dedicated to Gruber's teacher, Gottfried von Einem.

Here Kuusisto also drew fine, disciplined playing.

Mahler's arrangement for the string orchestra of Schubert's quartet Death and the Maiden remained unpublished until 1984, the composer having withdrawn it in his lifetime. Whether it adds or subtracts to the composition maybe a moot point, but the Britten Sinfonia performance added nothing and subtracted a great deal from what one might expect from any reasonably good quartet.

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