“He commands light and shade” wrote Ferruccio Busoni of Mozart, “but his brightness never dazzles, and his darkness always shows clear outlines”. It wouldn’t have made a bad motto for the joyous performance of Mozart’s “Linz” Symphony with which David Curtis and the Orchestra of the Swan found their form in this, the first matinee concert of their new season at Town Hall.
Curtis set brisk speeds. There was plenty of contrast: perhaps a little too much. But you could sense the orchestra enjoying itself, and somewhere around the beginning of the Trio section – as Curtis eased off the throttle and let oboist Victoria Brawn linger deliciously over the start of her solo – everything seemed to click into place. The finale simply fizzed.
It was an encouraging sign after the opener: four rather flat-footed extracts from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When Tamsin Waley-Cohen came on to play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Curtis and the OOTS were at the top of their game: ardent, poetic, and keenly responsive to Waley-Cohen’s fantastical, gorgeously-coloured solo performance. Waley-Cohen doesn’t just produce a radiant, singing tone when letting the melody stream out – though she certainly did that, shaping Mendelssohn’s opening solo like a song without words, and inflecting it with little portamenti and tiny, natural touches of rubato.
But she makes a gloriously warm and eloquent sound at the quietest dynamics, too. As the slow movement ended she seemed to weave golden tracery against the woodwind’s twilit chords. And throughout, she played as if she had something intimate and wholly sincere to communicate. It’s unreservedly good news that, as the OOTS’s Associate Artist, we’ll be hearing a lot more of Tamsin Waley-Cohen this season.