Review: Romeo and Juliet
Those who stayed away from this concert in large numbers missed a few treats. The centrepiece of the all-Russian programme was Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 2, which Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja (right) played as if there was no tomorrow.
Although her speaking voice barely made it beyond the lip of the stage when announcing her two encores, their impact was substantial.
Concertmaster Jing Wang was whisked to his feet to help with the first, an immaculately played Prokofiev duo, only to be capped by Crin 1996/1997 for violin solo by Jorge Sanchez-Chiong, in which Kopatchinskaja chirruped and blooped in tandem with the dotty contemporary violin sounds. It put similar party tricks well into the shade.
That sense of adventure had been evident throughout the violin concerto, in which Kopatchinskaja matched Prokofiev's sweet and sinister twists with a comprehensive range of colours and characters. From the driven unpredictability of the first movement to the well-judged tipsy swagger and macabre edge of the finale, she cemented her stage presence through eye contact and a dynamic musical and physical interaction with the orchestra.
Sandwiching this tremendous entertainment were two takes on the story of Romeo and Juliet. Conductor Yu Long's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture was persuasive. A few ragged entries was a small price to pay for adopting an impetuous tempo that gave the whole a dramatic urgency and facilitated an effectively pitched climax. Also interesting was the toning down of the cymbal crashes to suggest the glint of swords.
The concert closed with an 11-movement compilation of movements from Prokofiev's score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet. The players did all that the baton asked of them, and the violins were particularly impressive in exposed passages that offer no hiding place. But this music just wasn't in Yu's veins.
The haughty melody of the opening scene sounded as though it had manhole covers strapped to its feet. After which, the performance never really got into its stride.