Though the visitation of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra happened just over a week ago, we have a more permanent influence from that part of the world in the person of Alan Buribayev, the Principal Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, who hails from Kazakhstan. He was joined for tonight’s performance by the young Milanese violinist, Edoardo Zosi who is something of a rising star. Having garnished first prize at the international violin competition “Viotti Valsesia” aged 15, he has toured all through Europe and China. As might be expected, his technical prowess was not to be doubted; what did impress were his musical sensitivity and his warm, vibrant tone.

Alan Buribayev © Milan Ilya prive Esther Simon
Alan Buribayev
© Milan Ilya prive Esther Simon

Tonight we had three standard works from the German romantic repertoire each representing distinctive genres: operatic overture, violin concerto and symphony. Despite subsequent popularity, neither Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman nor Bruch’s Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor were financially successful initially; the former had only four performances, while for the latter, Bruch received a one-off payment, missing out on the extensive royalties it would have gone on to generate. No such misfortune occurred to Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in F, which was received to great acclaim when first performed in Vienna in 1883, with Hans Richter, who conducted the first performance, calling it Brahms’ “Eroica”.

Buribayev delivered an evocative and suitably stormyFlying Dutchman overture with the wind and raging seas suggested by the shrill woodwind and the agitated strings. At times, this emotional maelstrom came at the expensive of a few tuning issues in the horns and a slight scratchiness in the strings. However, the mood of redemption came through clearly with the cor anglais melody. Buribayev’s animated conducting style suited well the returning storm theme working it up to a fine climax.

The opening of Bruch’s Violin Concerto is solemn, even sad; deceptive in its simplicity yet requiring a profound interpretation in order to draw the listener in. Zosi’s warm tone, with its slow vibrato, instantly captured the audience’s attention. The perilous double-stops later on were effortlessly executed and there was a good dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Zosi took the first movement at a slightly slower tempo than normal and while this had the advantage of allowing the music to breathe in the more lyrical sections, it did mean that there was a slight lack of impetus in the dramatic outbursts. This expansiveness found its true home in the lyrically heartfelt slow movement where Zosi made his violin “sing”. The orchestra responded sensitively to his approach echoing his ethereal pianissimos and the glowing warmth of his tone. The fiery attack of the finale with its rhythmic drive and terrifying tenths ensured a rapturous applause. Zosi elected to play a Bach Gavotte in E major as an encore, not an obvious choice following the pulsating excitement of this concerto, but its stately character was captured well and showed an entirely different side to this accomplished young musician.

The music critic Hanslick describes Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 as “a feast for the music lover and musician rather than for the critic, who must subsequently describe how it looks and what its beauties are”. This was indeed a feast, though not without some reservations. If Zosi started the Bruch a little slowly, I felt that Buribayev took the first and third movements of Brahms a shade too quickly. In Buribayev’s muscular opening, pulsating with energy, we lost some of the expansiveness and with it, the palette of orchestral colour. Though the music has the motto “Frei aber Froh” (“Free but Happy”), it is far from the carefree happiness of a Hadyn symphony. The music calls for nobility and majesty in character and sound, both of which were lost in the initial flurry of excitement. There was a more peaceful approach in the pastoral lyricism of the second movement. Sadly, Buribayev forced the pace in the haunting opening melody of the third movement. After this dismaying start there were moments of great stillness, however, allowing the listener to luxuriate in the harmonies. The orchestra found its form in the fourth movement. The passion and excitement were wonderfully delineated in its sharp fortes and zany cross-rhythms bringing this feast to a satisfying close.

***11