Rachlin, Bellincampi


MICHAEL DERVANreviews Rachlin, Bellincampi at the NCH, Dublin

Borodin – Polovtsian Dances.

Shostakovich – Violin Concerto No 1. Tchaikovsky – Symphony No 3 (Polish).

The tuneful, toe-tapping Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s unfinished opera Prince Igor made for a colourful and invigorating start to the RTÉ NSO concert under Giordano Bellincampi. Borodin may have been only a part-time composer, but his work has such broad appeal it was raided and sugar-coated in the 1950s for the musical Kismet.

Bellincampi encouraged the voices of the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and the players of the RTÉ NSO to deliver the attractive dances like a golden-era Hollywood epic, full of exotic, glamorous allure, and with a responsiveness that made sure the music-making was impressive not only in passages of heavy-duty spectacle, but also when everyone was being light on their toes.

Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, written for the great violinist David Oistrakh, was one of those works the composer had to keep in his drawer in the final years of the Stalin era for fear of the fallout that might be occasioned by its dark moodiness.

Julian Rachlin played it with the utmost of inwardness, conveying the opening movement as if it were a mysterious rumination of restrained grief that ignited only briefly before turning back on itself. He was right on target, too, in the rhythmic jauntiness of the dysphoric scherzo and in the gaunt passacaglia, and he was riveting in the wildness of the cadenza and the controlled coarseness of the finale.

He achieved all of this without ever seeming to seek to dominate the orchestra by force of tone. It was, instead, a matter of forceful musical personality.

Bellincampi scaled the orchestra to perfection in the concerto, and opened Tchaikovsky’s Polish Symphony with a sense of hushed longing. But his handling of the symphony didn’t exactly stay on the rails. Or, rather, it stayed there too much, to the point where, in spite of some wonderful moments (the delightful, dancing woodwinds of the second movement), the music descended too often into tub-thumping predictability. Forceful, yes, but overbearing too.