I had only seen Viktoria Mullova live once before during the 2003 Proms.She was surrounded by a full Symphony Orchestra and playing the wonderful Prokofiev concerto. With her very powerful, vigorous, energetic playing against a populous orchestra is almost like a primeval battle of the individual against a mass of people. And she surely stands up in that context.
Last Sunday it was a different situation altogether. She was accompanied by her own Ensemble made up of friends.I really did not know what to expect, especially as I had the chance to be on the fourth row. Would it be too close to appreciate her sound, would it be intimate?
Till the lights went down I was quietly wondering in my head, especially when both pieces they performed were totally new to me.
The Beethoven was very classical in feel, restraint and very poised. Seeing Mullova interact with the other six members of the ensemble was lovely. They only exchanged cursory looks and they were clearly at ease with each other. From my viewpoint the oboist was looking at Victoria with a tender devotion that one would expect from a dear friend.
After the heights of the Classical tradition, the Schubert Octet was a plunge in deep Romantic waters. Their performance became more fluid and much more in tune with the beautiful harmonic lines that Schubert used in the piece. Being so close to the ensemble it was incredibly intimate, it felt as if they were playing just for me. It had a wonderful communicative feel to it. A totally refreshing experience.
Ludwig Van Beethoven Septet in E flat,
Franz Schubert Octet