Review: WASO - Romantic Rachmaninov

WASO's Classics Series was off to a fine start last weekend with soloist Henning Kraggerud performing Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor with Paul Daniel conducting.  In what was a truly moving interpretation, Kraggerud displayed a warmth of tone and depth of emotion that got to the heart and soul of what was Sibelius' only concerto for a solo instrument.  His use of phrasing and portamento tugged at the heart and I have not heard a finer interpretation than this, he is a soloist in radiant, top form.

Daniel's has a lush and energetic way of reading Sibelius and it works very well.  His respect for the stark tonal structure of these works is evident in the way he builds every climax and the punctuations by the brass were nothing short of compelling.  His communication with his soloist and wider ensemble was beautiful to watch, I had the good fortune to be close enough to see the eye contact between them and it was obvious they were so attuned.  It is impossible to fault the performance of the orchestra, the horns and woodwind are definitely worthy of mention in their work here, very close and gorgeous ensemble work.

The reception to the Violin Concerto was rapturous and the audience was treated to an encore lead by Kraggerud himself.  La Melancolie by Ole Bull, arranged by Henning Kraggerud was an all but too brief insight into some of his other talents.  A seriously gifted musician.

It is amazing how impressive in size a late Romantic era orchestra really is when you come back from interval, not to mention the huge sound.  With Rachmaninov's Symphony No2 in E Minor the is much opportunity for a wide range of dynamics, from the quiet and somber build up which opens the the symphony to the ear-splitting climaxes of post-Wagnerian proportions, especially in the first and third movements, they were fully explored here and wondrous to behold.  

Once again there was much forward momentum in Daniel's reading of this lush romantic score.  In it one can hear references to other of his works from the same period, such as Isle of the Dead and the Third Piano Concerto and the dark undertones of the score were beautifully recognised, contrasting perfectly with the melancholic emotionalism of the quieter moments, the divine melody of the third movement building to ecstatic heights appropriate to the works' comparison with Wagner's Tristan.

After this performance I was forced to view this piece in a different light as it has never really grabbed my attention musically. I hereby put this down to the fact that the work has been somewhat misrepresented by musicologists. That and the fact that my one and only recording of this is actually quite crap and my local orchestra can perform this beautifully intense work much better.