Distinguished by Discipline

The post war years have seen the inauguration in Europe and elsewhere of several small string groups devoted primarily to reviving music of the 18th century. Possibly the war itself prompted a sense of distaste for the excess of romanticism and a nostalgia for restrained, classical values

The Lucerne Festival Strings, who brilliantly launched the new Bulawayo Celebrity Concerts on Saturday evening, are distinguished by this quality of sober discipline, reinforced by leader Rudolf Baumgarnter’s occasional gestures, and saved from monotony by their constant interplay of tonal values.

Out of the antiphonal exchanges in Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in D. major and another by Locatelli in F. minor, they established a subtly shifting mosaic of sound. The firmly cohesive tuttis provided a framework and a contrast.

Rudolph Weber’s solo playing – expressive and musical – in Johann Christian Bach’s viola concerto in C minor was a triumph and made this attractive work sound a real winner.

After these pleasures, the latter half of the evening was disappointing. Undistinguished solo fiddling in an Adagio and Rondo for violin and strings by Schubert helped kill interest in an anyway vapid work, and I felt the performance of Mozart’s F. major Divertimento K138 a shade too regimented and unsmiling for an unpretentious piece d’occasion.

One must regret the absence of a harpsichord continuo. There is in fact a good modern harpsichord in Bulawayo. Is there anyone who could tune it?

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