REVIEW: Maxim Vengerov with the Würth Philharmonic – Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Arguably, the greatest living string player in the world, and undoubtedly the most in-demand musician in all of classical music, Maxim Vengerov returns to Edinburgh as both soloist and conductor in this finale to the Usher Hall’s season of Sunday Classics.

In the first half, Vengerov performs one of the most popular violin concertos in the classical repertoire, and one of the best works of the Romantic period, Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor, Op. 26, in the second, conducting the newly formed Würth Philharmonic in Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony. In addition we are treated to Strauss’ Die Fledermaus Overture and Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

Under the confident baton of Stamatia Karampini, the Würth Philharmonic begin the afternoon gloriously with the overture of J. Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, the smiles that appear instantaneously on the faces of the audience, testament to both the popularity of the piece and the virtuosity with which it is played by this stunning orchestra.

When Vengerov takes to the stage, the ex-Kreutzer Stradivari in his hand, there’s no doubt who everyone is here to see, and boy does he deliver. Bruch’s Violin Concerto is already one of the greatest loved works in the repertoire, but in the hands of a maestro it is utterly ravishing. While there’s a theatricality in his playing style, there’s little interaction with the audience, that said, there’s no need, this traditional approach takes nothing away from the musical experience, and Vengerov radiates sincerity and enthusiasm from every pore. His finger work as close to perfection as it’s possible to get. As he leaves the stage at the end of the first act there’s no greater compliment than the reaction of the audience, a rousing ovation and smiles, smiles everywhere you look, proof that music has the power to change your mood, to make you feel alive.

In the second half Vengerov takes the baton, conducting the Würth in Shostakovich’s rousing Symphony No.10. Created in 2017, the 72 piece from mainly European countries, the orchestra aims to unite young musicians across the world form a virtuosic symphony orchestra and on this first hearing they have achieved this. The power of Shostakovich’s rings out throughout the auditorium, stirring the soul.

A concert programme and performance of infinite quality. A fitting end to the Usher Hall’s Sunday Classics International Concert Series, a programme of work that stirs and inspires and leaves you wanting more.