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Beethoven and Bruch with Nicola Benedetti (Susan Elkin reviews)


Pablo Heras-Casado

Nicola Benedetti

Royal Festival Hall

14 March 2024

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) is at last getting the recognition she deserves, I have,  for example, spent most of this term learning the second violin  part of her third symphony and her work is frequently aired on Radio 3.  And now comes a performance of this fine overture in E minor (Op 23) which starts with a solemn intro followed by appealing work with lots of semi-quavers and a colourful dynamic range – all brought out  by Pablo Heras-Casado who is business like and unshowy and doesn’t use a baton. The performance included some  attractive clarinet playing.

On this occasion the Philharmonia was ably led by Marika Faltskog who had to move at this point in the concert.  The harp was wheeled into place between first and second violin front desks for Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy  from which position harpist Heidi Krutzen could duet with violinist Nicola Benedetti,

Benedetti gave us a very sweet sound in the first movement and some resolutely incisive double stopping in the second which ended with a stunningly beautiful segue into the andante. The whole piece is folksong-inspired but this is the most folksy movement of the four. Benedetti and Heras-Casado made it sound both natural and affectionate without self-indulgence. Then in the fourth movement we got Benedetti almost dancing through all those demanding virtuosic passages interspersed with lyrical contrasting moods underpinned by the harp.

Now, visibly and comfortably pregnant, Benedetti radiates friendliness on stage –  and not only with her fellow players. A teenage boy presented her with flowers from the front row and I was moved to see her crouch to his level and engage him in a proper conversation. She’s a communicator in every sense.

And so to Beethoven’s Fifth. Like anyone else who has spent her whole life standing firmly on the classical music square, I’ve heard this symphony, literally, hundreds of times. Yet I never cease to marvel at the magic old Ludvig weaves with piccolo and timp in the final allegro. And Heras-Cabado (now without score) ensured that we heard and appreciated every beat of that joyous excitement.


He also treated us to a nippy, nicely modulated first movement, a silky grandiloquent andante and a dramatically robust scherzo with some splendid work from lower strings and woodwind. And my goodness, Heras-Cabado is good at coaxing contrasting dynamics. His pianissimos are magical.

Another enjoyable evening with the Philharmonia –  who must have been gratified to see the hall packed almost to capacity.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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