Bankrolled by tools-manufacturer Reinhold Würth, the Philharmonic Orchestra that bears his name (its home located near Stuttgart) was formed last year. This Anvil appearance was the third leg of a trip to the UK and Eire – and what polished vibrancy the enthusiastic players made.
Stamatia Karampini conducted the first half. It got off to a rousing start with the Overture to Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, its exuberance well-served. Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto (the first of his three) was given an expansive outing, somewhere between leisurely and grandiose and grew in stature. Maxim Vengerov beguiled from the outset with beauty of tone, sweet yet muscular, powerful yet pliant. A shame that the opening movement felt so indulgent, draining the music of life and momentum, whereas tenderness and warmth enabled the Adagio to glow, even if Vengerov’s handsome address (and some fine flute and horn contributions) failed to alleviate a continuing sense of inertia. Matters improved in the Finale, bringing much-needed life and spontaneity to an otherwise earthbound account.
The Saint-Saëns was then given an altogether more cohesive and persuasive reading, its dynamics nicely calibrated and its design clearly outlined, Vengerov in his element; soulful, insouciant and scintillating. As a gem of an encore, the ‘Sarabande’ from J. S. Bach’s D-minor Partita (BWV1004) formed an audience-stilling extra.
Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony found Vengerov on the podium. He coaxed rich string-playing and furthered a convincing, purposeful trajectory to the opening movement, the orchestra unanimously alert to Vengerov’s undemonstrative yet authoritative conducting. The players had yet to unleash their big guns but when they did in a graphic Scherzo the venom was stunning: percussion and brass thrilling, strings producing just the right bite. Fine woodwind contributions elevated a somewhat episodic Allegretto where Shostakovich’s initials (DSCH) were tellingly triumphant in a snarling più mosso section and poignantly enshrined by musical reference to his muse and confidante Elmira Nazirova through expressive violin and horn solos. The problematic Finale, with its startling volte-face, transporting us at a stroke from Siberian wastes to Moscow fairground, brought a determined sense of jubilation, Vengerov and this superb orchestra inspirational champions for Shostakovich.