enchanted violin (Helena Wood)

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra presents ‘The Enchanted Violin’ at the National Concert Hall (10 June 2014)

A programme evocative of the sounds of summer launched the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Lunchtime Series. Under the commanding directorship of Gavin Maloney, and the dulcet tones of Lyric FM’s Niall Carroll, the audience was treated to an hour of blissful escapism from the bustle of the working day.

Carl Maria von Weber’s orchestral overture to the opera Oberon (1826) opens the concert. With a solo-horn call, answered by muted strings, we are immediately transported into the pastoral setting of the magical world of the King of the Elves. The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra articulates Weber’s colourful orchestration with grace, balance and intelligent tempo choices.

Our guest violinist for the afternoon’s entertainment, Helena Wood, steps onto the stage against the backdrop of heartfelt applause. No stranger to the platform, Wood is constantly in demand as a soloist, chamber musician, leader and director. She currently occupies the role of concertmaster of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Her first piece, Mozart’s ‘Adagio for violin and orchestra’ (1776), is a musical portrait of pure serenity. The difficulty is not in the technicality of the articulation, but in the intonation of the lengthy phrases. Wood captures the lyrical essence of this work with artful ease. Her facility of musical expression is breathtaking.

Staying with Mozart, his concise and delicately crafted ‘Rondo in C’ (1781) is equally tasteful. Here, Wood’s lively and solid interpretation is stylistically effortless, and ends with great approval from her audience. Her musical interaction with the orchestra illustrates Wood’s comfort playing alongside her colleagues. The full compliment of the orchestra returns to present Anatoly Liadov’s tone poem The Enchanted Lake (1909) — a piece known for its elegant fragility and restraint. Iridescent tremolo strings evoke a scene of other-worldliness, against the sounds of the harp, celeste and flutes. The static quality of this mood painting is carefully poised within the controlled voices of the orchestra.

Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher (1878) heralds Wood’s return to the stage. This three-movement suite was originally given to Tchaikovsky’s patroness Nadezhda von Meck as a gesture of thanks for allowing him the use of her summer home. Wood’s performance of the ‘Mélodie’ is flawless, while the challenges of the ‘Scherzo’ are handled with energetic aplomb. Her superb playing is endorsed with exclamations of approval throughout the hall. Aram Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite (1941) provides an exciting close to the concert. From the fantastic tutti swirls of the ‘Waltz’, to the challenging ‘mad-cap’ style of the ‘Galop’, Khachaturian’s thrilling music invites smiles from the instrumentalists and audience members alike.

The animated reception of the concert illustrates the value of spending one’s lunchtime hour in the company of some very fine musicians.


Weber: Oberon Overture Mozart: Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E, K261

Mozart: Rondo (Allegretto grazioso) in C, K373

Liadov: The Enchanted Lake Op. 62

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir d’un lieu cher: Mélodie and Scherzo

Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite: Waltz, Mazurka, Romance and Galop