Mathilde Wantenaar’s new violin concerto is already beautiful and will mature even further

In the NTR Saturday Matinee it went on Saturday afternoon First Violin Concerto by Mathilde Wantenaar, written for and performed by violinist Simone Lamsma. Side note: Out of time constraints Wantenaar left the orchestration of the first and third movements to composer Tijmen van Tol.

Wantenaar’s music is beautiful and fairytale-like, with enough harps and glockenspiel to imagine yourself in a rosy world, but too little to become kitschy. Low tones are so rare that they stand out when they sound equally.

The first part (lento, ‘slowly’) seems to be a musing on a beautiful past, with here the vague contours of a Gershwin-like New York, and there a fantasy about one of the thousands and one nights. Conductor Karina Canellakis allows beautiful dynamic waves to pass through the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, although the strings sometimes react somewhat tamely to so many beautiful memories.

Conductor Mathilde Canellakis hardly doses in Bruckners Eighth . Not in details, and not in general


Violinist Simone Lamsma, for whom the violin concerto was written, wanted to be ‘put to work’ by Wantenaar. But Wantenaar doesn’t do that with many virtuoso passages with fast notes and complicated jumps. It was not. You could call most of it downright anti-virtuoso. Slow melodies should be played by Lamsma; long lines, at the slowest point even one tone of nine slow strokes long. Even in the cadence (the solo, flowing from Bach suite-like to Eastern European emotional) where Lamsma has to play so high that she almost touches her stick, it still has to be done relatively slowly. That entails a completely different level of difficulty: accurate intonation, colouring, building up and letting go of tension.

Lamsma is doing well, but you also notice that this anti-virtuosity is exciting territory. She is not quite sure what to do with it everywhere. Would you like to join the orchestra or tell your own story? Sometimes she seems to lack her own conviction.

Fun stuff

The first two parts are the most exciting in their slowness. The third, more cheerfully fluttering part is less successful as a unit. It’s more of a motley collection of ‘nice things’ that all take turns sounding. A few notes muted trumpet, contrabassoon, a bass drum, briefly some bells, a piece of vibraphone, then suddenly a Russian-looking tutti; before you know it you forget to pay attention to the solo violinist, even now that part is a bit more virtuoso.

The violin concerto is already beautiful, but the impression remains that there is still something to ripen that we will taste in subsequent performances. Who knows, in a complete orchestration by Mathilde Wantenaar herself.

Canellakis’ is less convincing after that Eighth Symphony from Bruckner. There is nothing wrong with the string sound of the RadiFil, and the copper sound comes up to temperature just fine. But Canellakis hardly dose. Not in details, and not in broad strokes. Bruckners Eighth is a hefty piece of long maturing chords in which you irrevocably wander into your own thoughts, which are unobtrusively but definitely colored by Bruckner, until he pulls you back to the real now with a sudden exciting passage. But Canellakis also tries to charge those non-exciting parts electrically and push them jerkily forward. The result is that you are no longer shaken awake anywhere.

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