In an entertaining and informative pre-concert interview, conductor Giordano Bellincampi mentioned that, despite his extreme youth, it felt as though Benjamin Beilman had been playing the Tchaikowsky Concerto for 40 years. Beilman’s performance was, in truth, a remarkable performance.
Benjamin Beilman. Photo © Stefan Ruiz
Virtuosic and profoundly musical, the violinist gave us a wondrously new take on an old favourite. He had a fluidity of phrasing that at times astounded as he stretched musical lines to the limits and then stretched them some more. A highlight, for me, was the solo violin’s first entry in the slow movement. He created an extraordinary, ethereal tone quality that I have never before heard in this passage, and over 1,000 people seemed to collectively hold their breath so as not to disturb the magic. The outer movements were similarly accomplished; Beilman executed every technical challenge with aplomb and apparent ease, despite tempi that seemed at times to verge on the impossible. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra accompanied sensitively, although seeming occasionally to be caught by surprise by some of the more unusual quirks of interpretation. This was an unforgettable Tchaikovsky Concerto, and the instant and unanimous standing ovation at its conclusion was richly deserved.
The concert opened with Nielsen’s Helios Overture. According to the Carl Nielsen Society, the overture is one of the most widely-performed of his works, and on last night’s showing it is easy to understand why. There is a story arc, from sunrise to sunset, that was perfectly executed by Bellincampi and the TSO. Between these two peaceful bookends was a feast of variety: fanfares, rich string sounds, beautiful woodwind playing and a short but impressive fugue. There was a wonderful clarity to the performance, with no voice lost in the texture. Between them, Bellincampi and the TSO created the quietest pianissimi, the richest fortissimi, and every dynamic level in between to give us a taste of the infinite variety of nature. Violist Will Newbery, conducting the pre-concert interview, asked Bellincampi if he felt a special affinity with the music of Nielsen. Bellincampi suggested it was for the audience to decide: at least for this audience member, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Lastly, Dvořák’s Symphony No 8. One of the things I love about the TSO is the total commitment of every player. There are no passengers, and this is a rare quality in an orchestra. It was extraordinary and very exciting to watch every player on the stage giving 110% throughout. The Federation Concert Hall is not always kind to violins, and occasionally I missed a certain warmth to the sound that would have added an extra dimension of emotion, but nevertheless this was a great performance. By turns exciting, soulful and lyrical, the orchestra shone.
The musicians talk of how much they love Maestro Bellincampi, and Bellincampi, in the pre-concert interview, expressed great admiration for the TSO. This mutual respect was almost tangible on stage last night. It was a truly outstanding evening of music.