In case anyone needed reminding, Maxim Vengerov’s performance of the opening of Bruch’s Violin Concerto demonstrated why he is one of the most revered performers around. Beautifully shaped, gutsy and forthright, it had each note telling its own story, sometimes pausing for reflection or in surprise, sometimes pushing on eagerly.
The Würth Philharmonic & Maxim Vengerov, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, ****
Vengerov provided a starry conclusion to the Usher Hall’s Sunday Classics season with the recently formed Würth Philharmonic, demonstrating both facets of his musical personality as violinist and conductor in a single show. (Stamatia Karampini conducted for the first half.) The Saint-Saëns Introduction and rondo capriccioso that followed the Bruch felt like a programmed encore (although Vengerov supplied a solo encore of his own – a luxuriant Sarabande from Bach’s Second Partita), and here, too, he gave even the composer’s flashiest violin pyrotechnics a strong sense of purpose.
After the interval, Vengerov was on the podium to conduct a Shostakovich Tenth Symphony that was surprisingly brisk and agile, though vividly characterised and never lacking seriousness of intent – especially in its driving, brutal, Stalin scherzo, but also in the third movement’s coolly intoned horn calls, unreciprocated appeals to a distant beloved. There were some fleeting ensemble issues among the Würth players, and a sense that they were yet to find their proper blend and balance between sections – not to mention worryingly few female faces among the band’s ranks. But this was a commanding, memorably spine-tingling performance nonetheless.