I first heard violinist Marc Bouchkov at the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, when he took with First Prize with Tchaikovsky against Stephen Waarts' Brahms. Bouchkov brought the same virtuosity, charisma and control to his Sibelius with the unmasked Munich Philharmonic, responsive as a chamber orchestra despite the social distancing. Philippe Jordan set a precise pulse that connected at once with the orchestra so that they took it over as their own. And Bouchkov responded to the rustling energy of the strings with long, stretching phrases as if he were in awe of the size of the music's construction and as he anticipated its emotion. His playing recalled at moments a more sober version of the incomparable Ivry Gitlis, with whom he worked in 2007, every note pregnant with emotion, every run a thrilling adventure.

Marc Bouchkov
© Münchner Philharmoniker

Against an orchestra making consistently beautiful sounds, with the distancing creating additional layers of clarity, Bouchkov drew forth dark rich tones from his instrument and wielded them with a wide range of color. He played passionately, fiercely, at times tearing at the music's fabric, deconstructing familiar 16th-note patterns as if they were Bach for solo violin, and taking moments of serenity more seriously than sweetly. With Jordan's close attention and the orchestra's sense of collaboration it was an exceptionally powerful performance that focused on the music's sweep and majesty

Brahms' Fourth Symphony began simply, Jordan taking great care with the woodwind solos and the dialogues with the strings, gathering more weight as the movement progressed while the camera delighted in capturing the woodwinds bobbing and weaving and other inimitable details. Towards the end of the movement, Jordan demanded extra intensity that had the concertmaster jumping out of seat, and the tragedy ended with real size. The finely-sculpted Andante moderato began with an open-throated horn call and was rich in its inner strings with wonderful nut brown viola sound; Jordan worked the shifting timbres with a mesmerizing lyrical flow, and the clarinet solo at the end was vulnerable and sweet.

Philippe Jordan conducts the Munich Philharmonic
© Münchner Philharmoniker

Jordan never quite let the Allegro giocoso break loose and treated the last movement more like another set of Haydn Variations than the ending to a tragedy, so beautifully and serenely paced did he let it play out. Overall it was one of the first concerts where I felt that the full concert experience was coming back, partly the sound quality but also a sense that orchestras are learning to adjust to the new logistical conditions.

This performance was reviewed from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra's live video stream