If there is one thing to take away from tonight’s performance, it is the name of Daniel Lozakovich, the brilliant young violinist who mesmerised with his interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto which was not only a revelation, but a complete sensation. Tonight’s concert had an unashamedly Romantic programme which drew in the crowds: what’s not to like about Beethoven’s concerto and a Tchaikovsky symphony? Add a passionate Venezuelan conductor, Diego Matheuz, and a fresh, responsive National Symphony Orchestra and you have a night to remember.

Daniel Lozakovich
© Johan Sandberg | DG

Louise Farrenc’s Overture no. 2 in E flat major which started the evening was new to me and a pleasant discovery. There is a special focus this season on including female composers whose works have been neglected. Farrenc, a fine pianist in her own right, was notable for being the first and, at the time, only full-time female professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire in the mid-19th century. Her overture has distinct echoes of Mozart or, at times, Rossini but nonetheless possesses its own assured style. Matheuz elicited a dramatic, rich tone at the start before the second half overflowed with lively, fun semiquavers.

And so to the highlight of the evening, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. The opening violin octaves are notoriously exposed; it wasn’t just that Lozakovich dispatched them with ease, which he did, but played them in such a way as to draw us in and to make sense of this mysterious question that Beethoven poses. There were so many aspects that were impressive in Lozakovich's performance. His projection was startling. He possesses one of the loudest tones of any violinist I have heard, one that could carry over a whole orchestra. And yet at the same time, his pianissimos, wisps of ethereal magic, also carried, matched by a super-responsive NSO. 

The dialogue between soloist and orchestra resembled that of chamber music: at times, engaging and contrapuntal; at others, coaxingly delicate. This is a concerto I have known intimately since my early childhood and yet Lozakovich made it sound intriguingly fresh. His vibrato, particularly noticeable in the first movement cadenza, was electrifying, quite like the intensity of vibrato of the great violinist Ginette Neveu. The second movement Larghetto was balm for the soul while the finale, with its syncopated rhythms, had a delightfully rustic feel to it. Some of the iterations at the higher register sounded like angelic laughter in Lozakovich’s hands. I can think of no finer compliment than if I could only hear this concerto once more in my life, I would chose tonight’s performance without hesitation.

With such a cathartic first half, it was always going to be difficult to follow such an act in the second half. Kudos to Matheuz for digging deep and delivering a searing Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony. The sombre, funereal opening was well captured while the climax of the first movement, with clashing brass and antiphonal string declamation, was scintillating. The horn solo of the second movement was sensitively shaped with bittersweet interjections from the oboe. Matheuz worked the sumptuous melody as it grew in intensity with each iteration until it spilled forth into that startlingly visceral chord at the climax. Charm oozed forth in the third movement waltz, with its exciting, gossipy exchanges between strings sections and woodwinds. The fateful declarations of the last movement made way for swashbuckling strings and fulsome brass. Matheuz imbued the coda with hope as he brought the symphony to a strong, victorious conclusion.