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18 October 2019

Concert Review: Vibrant violinist lights up Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra concert

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Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 was brilliantly performed and deserved a bigger audience

All great music is a product of a time and place and without understanding the context in which it was created gives it only abstract value. Just as George Gershwin’s music reflected the blending of popular African American jazz with classical music and captured the exuberance of the 1920’s America, Dmitri Shostakovich’s creations brilliantly portray the emotions of his native Russia caught in the throes of a horrific war.

Max Bruch, the German composer whose work was the centerpiece of last night’s concert by Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, wrote music that captured the mood of a country just beginning to find its place in the world. The modern state of Germany was only created in 1871, at which point Bruch was only in his 30s and at the peak of his career. It’s prominence as a dominant European nation which eventually overshadowed the Hapsburg Empire, occurred not long afterwards.

Bruch’s romantic style reflected the newfound confidence of a wealthy and prosperous Germany that could afford to support and appreciate the arts. Bruch’s life spanned the golden age of Germany. His style has none of the obsessiveness of his German contemporary, Richard Wagner, and more akin to the French composer, Claude Debussy.

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is his seminal work and it was brilliantly performed by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra last night, led by the young solo violinist, Tobias Feldmann and conducted by David Niemann. Niemann is a rapidly emerging German talent whose style seemed to match the delicately woven movements of Bruch’s Concerto. But Feldmann was the star of the night. His solo violin performance was vibrant and intense and was roundly praised by the audience. He gave a solo encore performance after being called back to the stage repeatedly to take bows from the appreciative audience.

Bruch’s concerto was bracketed by the performances of Mozart’s Overture to “Lucio Silla” and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, the former performed mainly by the string orchestral groups and the latter capping a perfect night for the orchestra in the musical sense.

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The concert was performed in the third auditorium at the QNCC. While it may not be the Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall in terms of its profile as a classical music venue, it has great acoustics. On this occasion, however, the performance failed to draw a crowd of the size that the orchestra often attracts, which is unfortunate given the caliber of the artists who performed.

Perhaps it sometimes needs to be remembered that a concert is part of an evening, not just a singular event, and that people often plan their evening around a play, a performance, or some other cultural event. Perhaps there was just a lack of awareness about this particular concert. But the musical quality on display last night definitely merited a bigger audience.

The next concert for the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra will be held in a very different setting: on Manhattan’s upper east side, along the banks of the East River in New York. On October 24, the orchestra will perform the works of Hala Al-Emadi and Dana Al Fardan, conducted by Eimear Noone, at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations to celebrate UN Day. It’s an honor the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra richly deserves.

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