Slovak Philharmonic play Dvorak 7 at InClassica Dubai

A sparkling conclusion to the Slovak Philharmonic’s concluding concert at the InClassica International Music Festival with a gripping rendition of Dvorak’s much-loved seventh symphony.

Conductor Daniel Raisky made good use of the dry acoustic conjuring up wistful phrasing and taut dry articulation. Throughout the work the string section once again proved their mettle with autumnal sounds. Unexpected detail was highlighted in the violas and cellos in the second movement; although sometimes out of balance with the front desk, the back desks of the first supported their section with impressive commitment. There were some rich melodic lines in the cellos too. 

The work nudged up a gear towards the middle of the second movement, with an exquisite third movement carefully crafted by Raisky, full of grace and poise. Come the final movement Raisky and his nimble band were clearly in their element, delicately pulling back where needed to expose details in the score. The occasional cheeky slide in the firsts in the final repeat of the main fourth subject gave proceedings a lift before we careered towards the final chord. 

Ravishing stuff.

InClassica International Music Festival is produced by the European Foudation for Support of Culture and SAMIT.

Gil Shaham plays Brahms Violin Concerto with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra at Dubai Opera

Warm enthusiastic applause greeted the conclusion of Gil Shaham’s performance of Brahms Violin Concerto with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra at Dubai Opera. Well deserved too. An heroic performance.

Shaham’s sweet tone rang out over lush strings throughout the first movement, sometimes battling with the woodwind and brass during the third. Some of the declamatory statements lacked the brilliance found in Shaham’s recording with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic (2002) inevitably.

His stage presence might give the impression that he’s not in control. Not so. Where he triumphed was bringing the orchestra with him in some of the more complex gear shifts in the second and third movements.

But more than any of this was the spirit Shaham exuded on stage. Generosity came in spades – bowing with a heartfelt smile in response to the audience applause in between movements, and gesturing applause to the orchestra behind him. A refreshingly unpretentious performer whose ability to switch from one mode of communication to another is something to behold.

By far the best performance of my time out here in Dubai. Really enjoyed it.

InClassica International Music Festival is produced by the European Foudation for Support of Culture and SAMIT.

Alexey Shor’s Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven 7 from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra with Andreas Ottensamer and Daniel Raiskin

The first of Alexey Shor’s new works I’ve heard at the InClassica International Music Festival in Dubai was a fun entertaining diversion written for clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer.

Shor’s Clarinet Concerto possesses an often fiendish decorative solo line suspended above opulent orchestral scoring that leaps from one musical influence to another in a short space of time. Pastiche or imitation? Or is it, as suggested in the programme, neoclassicism for a contemporary classical audience?

The composer’s twist on contemporary classical is in itself thought-provoking. Its music which clearly appeals to the diaspora in the auditorium whose enthusiasm for Shor’s work is marked. His music is clearly accessible, written with enthusiasm, and intended to appeal to a specific audience.

Whilst there are some moments when melodic lines need developing, it’s evident in the score where Alexey’s heart beats the fastest as a creative. In the Clarinet Concerto in particular (perhaps more than any of the works I heard in Malta in 2019) Shor demonstrates a fascination with the mechanics of the orchestral sound, a love of analysing how that sound is produced, and a desire to recreate it in his own form. The resulting homage he creates is a series of vignettes or musical tropes which, in the case of the Clarinet Concerto are linked by one overriding criteria: a sense of fun.

In this way the Concerto is a reflection of Ottensamer and a lot of clarinet repertoire. There are hints of Mozart, Gershwin, and in the more tender best expanded second movement, hints of Brahms too. Much of this is down to the sincerity in Ottensamer’s assured stage presence on stage. There is a sense of the showman about him that steers a clear path away from awkward stiff court jester-look often observed when clarinettists appear at the front of the stage. This confidence in the moment permeates the sound produced giving credibility to the finished product.

In the second half of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra’s Dubai concert with conductor Daniel Raiskin, a prompt reading of Beethoven’s 7th symphony full of clear articulation in the strings, warm woodwind, and powerful brass. A mildly unsettling moment between adagio and allegro in the first movement when the woodwind appear to ‘fluff’ the transition highlighted a rare and unexpectedly loss of cohesion, though this was quickly rectified during the second repeat. The second movement felt a little faster than I’ve heard it before – more of a stroll to the bank than a funeral march. The lively third and joyously uplifting fourth movement spotlit the power and delight in the Slovak Phil: a highly versatile bass section. A real delight to watch and listen to.

InClassica International Music Festival is produced by the European Foudation for Support of Culture and SAMIT.