London Mozart Players, Leia Zhu, Leslie Suganandarajah and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at QEH

Last night’s jaunt to QEH was my first concert of 2022. Sixteen-year-old violinist Leia Zhu was very much front and centre, taking the audience’s collective breath away with a staggering performance of Beethoven’s epic Violin Concerto. The vibe was relaxed beforehand at the pre-concert foyer chinwag. Even Leia stepped up to the microphone extending warm welcomes and heartfelt thanks before her performance, the epitome of fearless youth.

The London Mozart Players conducted by the sweet, charming and dashing Leslie Suganandarajah played with a precision I’ve not heard before. Part of that might be down to the QEH acoustic, which favours a small band and an attentive audience. The detail emanating from all of the players was discernible. The ‘thumb in the air test’ comparing the distance the bow moved at the front of the violins compared to the back suggested everyone wanted or felt compelled to put the same effort in. A gratifying sight that paid dividends in an electrifying Beethoven Violin Concerto.

Vicky Haircut was my plus one for the evening and at various points in the second half was observed wiping her eyes. This brought attention to how I was feeling throughout the first and second movements – an underlying sense of tension that had crept up on me almost unawares. Across the aisle, I saw other audience members dabbing at their eyes, presumably triggered in the same way I was by Zhu’s delicacy, precision and sparkle. I was not alone, nor Vicky Haircut.

The music that resulted was something that was bold, courageous and honest. Zhu’s rendition was a slow burn. I just didn’t realise quite how tense I felt until the beginning of the stress-relieving third movement, moments before the conclusion of which my plus-one involuntarily said out loud (quietly but audibly) ‘fucking hell!’ Heads turned. A special moment. Not only had I finally appreciated this epic work but my plus-one had submitted herself to the performance – the first time she’d heard the concerto.

All this delivered by someone who only half an hour before subverted on-stage conventions and led the pre-performance chat inviting contributions from the conductor before she played the work. A sparkling evening concluded by an unequivocal standing ovation.

Make no bones about it. Zhu is a phenomenal talent. She is reassuringly self-assured. The complete package. Everything she does with or without her violin gently reminds you that there is in amongst the darkness in the world a resolute sense of hope. There aren’t many who achieve that. Even fewer have that effect in their teenage years.

If you weren’t present, haven’t experienced the Beethoven Violin Concerto, or if you were and you fancy something similarly electrifying, you might try a recording by Vilde Frang with conductor Pekka Kuusisto and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen released by Warner Music in 2022.

Leslie Suganandarajah conducts the Ulster Orchestra at Ulster Hall in Belfast on Thursday 19 January in a concert with horn player Ben Goldscheider.

Violinist Leia Zhu wows the Trafalgar Square audience at the BMW Classics LSO concert

A joy to see people in Trafalgar Square (nearly) shoulder to shoulder listening to the LSO’s 10th outdoor Trafalgar Square concert.

There is a pleasing kind of straightforwardness to a pops concert like this one – uncomplicated, foot-tapping, uplifting music that can brighten the mood on the glummest of days, including Act 1 of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, a premiere of Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s Dream City with players from the East London Academy, and concluding with the 8th of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances complete with cheers from the crowd. Nice.

One special Thoroughly Good was 14-year-old violinist Leia Zhu perform Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. The look on her face after the final note sounded is a picture.

Props to the digital team too for some clear best practise in the YouTube description field for the live stream.

Clear information about the running order, useful links to specific parts of the video, and a call-to-action to donate via text. None of this is any great surprise as the LSO has long led the way in terms of digital content and, more pertinently metadata. Its work that just makes the content more findable for users and, as a result, drives traffic. Consistently reliable high-quality digital.