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Humbly virtuosi, softly powerful

Symphony Hall
06/14/2019 -  & June 9 (Kaohsiung), 15 (Beijing), 2019
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, opus 35
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, opus 47

Renaud Capuçon (Violin)
Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, Lahav Shani (Conductor)

L. Shani (© Marco Borggreve)

If the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s 18/19 brochure announced Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto as the beginning piece for the concert, it seems that the artistic team eventually picked a “safer” choice, programming Tchaikovsky’s ever so famous and beloved Violin Concerto – which might counterbalance the modernity of Shostakovich’s following symphony. Nonetheless, the audience was not disappointed with that change, Renaud Capuçon and Lahav Shani having managed to avoid an over-emphasis on the concerto’s lyricism and present instead all its nuances.

From the beginning, Renaud Capuçon has shown a very modest attitude. There was a great balance between the talented musicians of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the soloist, and if the first movement could be an overpowering display of virtuoso’s technique on the part of the solo violinist, Renaud Capuçon managed to keep his performance very natural and sincere. This enabled his higher notes to resonate in the concert hall in a pure crystalline way.

A balance was also found between lyricism and a more playful side of the concerto. The fact that Lahav Shani impressively conducted throughout the whole concert without scores probably gave him a bigger freedom, not only of movement – having more room on his platform – but also to give himself fully to the performance. For instance, during the second movement, Lahav Shani was mimicking the impression the music had on him, either showing elephant-like stomps before the percussions’ part, or waddling for the softer and playful parts. The nuances of his interpretation of the Violin Concerto – and later of Shostakovich’s 5th – could not only be heard, but also seen, and that is perhaps what makes a young conductor’s performance all the more enjoyable.

The second movement of the concerto also shed light on a very talented young flutist, Joséphine Olech, whose airily notes matched perfectly with Renaud Capuçon’s part, giving way to a beautiful duo. The concerto ended with plenty of well-deserved bravos and after the audience’s warm cheering, Renaud Capuçon and Lahav Shani – now back to his pianist seat – performed, from the back of the stage, Jules Massenet’s Meditation from Thais. A very soft duet to perfectly conclude the concert’s first part.

After the intermission and the setup of more instruments on stage, Lahav Shani and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra opened Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony with a powerful and well-balanced “dialogue” between the strings. The Moderato transformed the orchestra in an unstoppable machine, sometimes with circus-like sounds due to the importance of brass and percussions, before closing on a softer phrase. Overall, this Symphony probably was the perfect piece to demonstrate Lahav Shani’s talent for nuances. The more powerful parts were well counter-balanced by softer neoromantic ones, like the anxious lyricism of the third movement.

The percussions and the brass were quite impressive and well put forward by their conductor, as signified by the loud cheering at the end of the Symphony. If playing Shostakovich could be somewhat of a challenge in front of an audience more used to Romantic pieces, this concert was but a success, largely due to the great talent of Lahav Shani, who managed to display myriads of colours throughout the night, and to achieve a great and respectful equilibrium between the different musicians performing. The enthusiasm of the audience was such that after 10 minutes of never ending applauses, Lahav Shani had to take the solo violinist with him to let the orchestra get off stage, adding a last sweet and comic note to the night.

Gabrielle Farnier



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