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Dresden Philharmonic show 'level of mastery' in mixed and drama-packed programme

Jennifer Pike performed with the Dresden Philharmonic at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Sunday Pic: Tom Barnes
Jennifer Pike performed with the Dresden Philharmonic at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Sunday Pic: Tom Barnes

Last night (Sunday, May 20), the penultimate concert in this season's Classical Concert Series from Cambridge Live at the Corn Exchange saw the Dresden Philharmonic , conducted by Michael Sanderling, perform a mixed and drama-packed programme of 19th century works.

Starting with the least-known of these, the programme opened with Weber’s Overture to Euryanthe –an opera that sadly remains largely unperformed due to issues with the plot and the weakness of the libretto (script/words). This seems a shame: judging by this performance – at times rousingly dramatic, at others achingly romantic, with a quite lovely melody at its heart – Weber’s music certainly deserves to be more widely heard and performed.

The centrepiece of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 35, performed with soloist Jennifer Pike, another former BBC Young Musician of The Year to grace the corn exchange stage (she gained the title in 2002, at aged just 12, and became the youngest ever winner). This was an astonishing performance, her instrument at times sounding almost human in its expressiveness. A deft but unshowy performer, her unaccompanied solo moments mesmerised. An intricately-worked rendition of Bach’s Sarabande in D minor was an encore bonus to round of the first half of the concert.

After the break came a real treat: probably the best-known symphony in the classical canon, but one that is known, loved and lauded for very good reason – Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 in C minor, or simply “Beethoven’s Fifth”. On this hot, sultry evening, the Dresden Philharmonic conveyed it in all its propulsive, revolutionary, sometimes claustrophobic, heroic glory. Conductor Sanderling both conveyed and embodied the piece’s contained power, while the orchestra revelled in its drama and angst, rising to each of its magnificent climaxes. If you’ve never heard the Fifth in full, in live performance, then I would strongly recommend you do so. It’s one of the great wonders of the classical world, and all the more impressive when performed by an orchestra of this level of mastery.

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