Energy drives performance

Neville Cohn

Although for years after 1891, Dvorak's Eighth was known as the "English" symphony because it was linked to his being awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Cambridge University, it is drenched in the rhythms and harmonies of his native Bohemia.

It would have been well worth attending this concert if only to listen to the WASO's more-than-satisfying performance, with conductor Jahja Ling clearly in his element, conveying the overarching design of the work while also paying the closest attention to detail.

A consistently responsive WASO was zealous in its focus, with robust, muscular climaxes invariably within the bounds of good taste, and always stopping short of a descent into the bombastic.

Throughout, fascinating, often delightfully folksy, detail came across strongly with crisp rhythmic underpinning and pleasingly contrasted tone colours. The woodwinds sounded in their element. And the buoyancy that informed the waltz-like third movement could hardly have been bettered, as were contributions by an in-form brass section.

Alina Pogostkina, in a strapless blue/grey concert gown, poured a wealth of meaning into Brahms' much-loved Violin Concerto even though, at times, tonal balance between soloist and orchestra was less than consistently satisfying. However, the cadenza was a model of its kind - a perfect vehicle for Pogostkina to demonstrate a near-faultless bowing technique and astonishingly felicitous double stopping.

In the central adagio, we were given an impeccable account of some of Brahms' most probing measures, Pogostkina responding with an answering depth of feeling on her fine 1717 Sasserno Stradivarius violin on loan to her by the Nippon Music Foundation.

In the opening measures of the finale, Jahja drew a powerful response from his forces in the lead-up to the soloist's entry.

As encore, St. Petersburg-born, now Berlin-based Pogostkina gave a capacity audience a finely wrought, if overlong, encore: an andante for unaccompanied violin by Bach.

Weber's Oberon overture was the curtain raiser.