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Lauri, Laus and the MPO... a fine combination

Concert
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Laus;Soloist: Carmine Lauri, violin
Manoel Theatre

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra opened its 2012/13 season a la grande and to a full house. Such a gratifying sight too.

Whenever Lauri performs in his homeland, whether as chamber performer or as soloist with orchestra, he fills the house

Expectations raised by the choice of programme, and with Carmine Lauri as soloist in Bruch’s First Violin Concerto, were successfully met.

Whenever Lauri performs in his homeland, whether as chamber performer or as soloist with the orchestra, he fills the house.

The combination of affable charm which tempers his intense concentration, highly accomplished mix of expressive and robust musicianship plus solid rapport with orchestra and audience, make a heady combination which can only lead to success.

The Bruch was performed in a continuous sweep of highly-charged, yet fluid and articulate music. The orchestra was in total support of and complementary to the soloist who reached a high peak of interpretative prowess in an exquisitely rendered adagio that was an unashamed assault on the senses, one which never rendered sensibility into over-sentimentality.

This offset the contrastingly more vigorous and energetic outer movements of the concerto with a finale that was a culmination and combination of all that had reigned so positively.

The thunderous applause at the end of the concerto resulted in an encore, Paganini’s Capriccio No.2 which Lauri dedicated to Ruggero Ricci, the Italo-American violinist who died last August at 94, and whom he described as his “inspiration” when it came to tackling Paganini. It proved to be a fitting tribute.

Considering its long gestation and the apparent piece-meal composition of his First Symphony, in C minor, Opus 68, Brahms produced a well-knit and compact work that feels so much in place with the first three movements, like a natural progression preparing the way for the great, final movement.

For this symphony, the MPO had Lauri as guest leader, while Marcelline Agius was leader for the rest of the concert.

This was (to me at least) the first time I saw and heard Lauri as soloist and leader of an orchestra in the same concert. The symphony progressed in a continuously sonorous exercise of contrasting ideas and effect.

They were well-etched in the expansive introduction and subsequent allegro of the opening movement. The gentle lyricism of the andante sostenuto with its long violin solo contrasted well with the preceding while the Un poco allegretto e grazioso lived up to its description.

This scherzo-like movement, despite a certain complexity of rhythms, was rather light in spirit, quite different from the following sombre introduction of the Finale.

It was hard not to be quite overwhelmed by the sheer nobility of that great theme which because of its similarity to the main one in the chorale finale of Beethoven’s Ninth earned the Brahms No.1 the annoying epithet (to Brahms himself) of Beethoven’s Tenth.

This was sheer Brahms, however, and a gorgeously triumphant one too. Beethoven had his say this evening with the overture to his Coriolanus, Opus 62, which opened the concert in a robust and noble tribute to classical heroism, if ever there was one.

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