David Curtis and his Orchestra of the Swan are skilled exponents of well-planned programmes, and in last Wednesday’s concert Tchaikovsky and variations provided interesting points of reference.
Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, an attractive if overlong exploration for strings of Tchaikovsky’s Legend, was the opener, played with silky tone, rich inner textures, and a subtle hint of violin portamento to reflect the dolorous spirit of the piece. There was considerable warmth, too, for Julian Lloyd Webber in Tchaikovsky’s own Variations on a Rococo Theme. Curtis refused to let the orchestral writing take second place, while Lloyd Webber was a generously sensitive soloist, always alert to the cello’s role in the overall musical fabric.
It made for an integrated, almost chamber-like interpretation, elegantly shaped and cantabile rich, although virtuoso flourishes could have had a more thrilling edge. And did we really need an encore – especially one by Britten?
An intelligently structured, woodwind fuelled account of Mozart’s Symophony no.40 brought the afternoon to a spirited and occasionally potent close. But beneath the fizz and polish on the surface, one couldn’t help feeling that the work’s inner tensions and turmoil, though hinted at, were not fully engaged or cogently argued.
Rating * * * *