Mozart was delighted by the quality of his Paris Symphony’s first performance and celebrated with what was then a luxury – an ice-cream. Would he have done the same here? Possibly: if the first two movements had matched the finale.
In Mozart’s day when orchestral ensemble couldn’t be guaranteed even by professionals, his emphatic opening would dazzle if properly executed.
If it’s to have an impact now then it must be played with extra élan and tremendous zip which was lacking here.
But conductor David Curtis delivered a finale bristling with energy, sparky wind playing and animated interplay between first and second violins, although dividing them left and right would have had greater impact.
Piquant wind playing was the highlight of Le Tombeau de Couperin where Ravel’s modern harmonies appear in baroque fancy dress. This was a performance full of charm, the Prelude gently wafted in and the three succeeding dance movements vividly characterized.
Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No 1 can’t match those works for inspiration but, like all his music, it’s well-crafted, tuneful and doesn’t outstay its welcome and Raphael Wallfisch’s warm, generous playing made the most of its virtues.
There was plenty of fire in the finale and a delicate touch for the china shepherdess slow movement with its muted string accompaniment.
The Swan is a cellist’s delight, a sugary confection perhaps but no matter if you have a musical sweet tooth, and Wallfisch played it beautifully. A rousing performance of the composer’s Allegro appassionato was a suitable encore.