Pastoral | Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Left - Conductor Nicholas Milton

Violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto was the star of the show on Friday night at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. Her confident yet tender playing was complemented by a fine performance from the MSO, conducted by a very chatty Nicholas Milton.

Sibelius’s Violin Concerto is much more concerned with a depth of emotional expression than the virtuosic fireworks that are often a feature of this particular musical form, and Yoshimoto appeared to understand this perfectly. Not to suggest that the work is not technically difficult, but rather that it is not virtuosic for virtuosity’s sake, and Yoshimoto’s playing reflected this. At times her sound was pure and almost vulnerable, particularly in the first movement. However she was not afraid to take on a richer, more complex timbre in the second movement, much to the appreciation of the enthusiastic audience. This was polished and satisfying performance of a much-loved work.

The other works performed in this concert were the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. I would have liked to see some more adventurous programming than this, particularly given that the encore was another Mozart overture, from The Marriage of Figaro. The programming of the Sibelius Violin Concerto and a Beethoven symphony attracted a full house on the evening I attended, and I thought that this would have been a good opportunity to play a new or less well-known work in the first half of the concert and introduce the audience to something a bit more challenging.

Nevertheless, the orchestra allowed Mozart’s Overture to sparkle as it should, and Milton effectively drew out the gentle contentedness of Beethoven’s Pastorale with its warm simplicity and absence of turbulence or struggle. The players seemed to particularly enjoy the one moment of darkness in this work, relishing the drama of the fourth movement, Thunderstorm.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall
Date/Time: Friday 31 July 2009 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $74 - $26

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