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  Joseph Wolfe Review

(Ongaku no Tomo, July 2018)
Japan Century Symphony Orchestra (225thsubscription concert)
31 May 2018, The Symphony Hall

Joseph Wolfe (conductor) , Chloe Hanslip (violin)
Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, Violin Concerto, and Symphony No. 4

Young and distinguished Englishman Wolfe appeared at the conductor's podium for the 4thtime with the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra. Through this all-Beethoven programme, I also got why there's increased attention on him. He demonstrated the rationality inherited from his father Sir Colin Davis, but also demonstrated originality by freely creating music-making at every turn. He duly carried out the instructions in the score but did not stick heavily to them, not even for the 'ff' passages. For example, in the Coriolan Overture, he made minute changes to the dynamics of the semiquaver increments in the stringed instruments, in response to the pitch. In the 1stmovement of the Symphony No. 4, Wolfe also rendered bar 3 into the main part from the prelude to sub.p, on the back of the 1st beat. He was thorough in bringing out a well-defined expression, which brought out liveliness.
Hanslip, the soloist for the Violin Concerto, enchanting with a beautiful sound whose high position had a particular gloss, was also comparable to Wolfe in fertile creativity. She chose the Joachim version of the cadenza, with no showboating in the approach itself. However, this was a freshly spun weave of vibrant music. The orchestra was also graceful and dainty, as if enjoying a dialogue with her. Wolfe also employed thrilling contrivances at every turn, such as from bar 315 onwards in the 1stmovement, where he made the phrasing of the bassoon stand out, thus setting it in contrast to the violin solo. Yep, it was interesting.

(Ongaku-no-Tomo June edition, Special feature [where 23 music critics etc. wrote articles about their favourite concertos])
Urushihara's and Wolfe's performance of Elgar: A ferocious impact radiating from a tranquil 'place'
・ 23rd April 2017, Hyogo Performing Arts Center
・ Asako URUSHIHARA (vn), Joseph WOLFE (conductor), Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra
・ Elgar 'Violin Concerto'

In a concerto performance, when a soloist with hidden passion which spouts forth in the midst of calmness encounters an orchestra conductor who loves this work more than anything and knows this well, a ferocious 'place' that nobody could have expected will be created. Edward Elgar's 'Violin Concerto' (performed 21st to 23rd April 2017), which combined Asako Urushihara with the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra, and Joseph Wolfe as conductor, was certainly that moment for me. This work is not often performed. There were also certainly expectations for this encounter. Urushihara faced towards him likewise with gentle calmness in her usual on-stage manner. The tone of the strings shone, but in an introspective way, where the fervent passion spouted introspectively with an austere sheen. Wolfe faced the solo performance head-on by conscientiously leading this well-constructed composition. The elegant lyricism was brought out in a natural way.
Moreover, the pizzicato tremolo appearing in the 3rd movement was also formed in an unaffected manner to a world where its entirety was filled with grace. This was a performance where a ferocious impact radiated from a tranquil 'place'.
(selected and written by Kunio SHIMADA (critic))

(Ongaku-no-Tomo June edition, Monthly review)
Orchestra - Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert)
21st April, Hyogo Performing Arts Center (Grand Hall), Joseph WOLFE (conductor),
Elgar: 'Violin Concerto' and 'Symphony No. 1'

Talented conductor Wolfe, from England, made his appearance to perform two masterpieces by major composer and compatriot Elgar. The 'Violin Concerto' is a difficult work where the technical demands gradually increase as the work progresses which, even with the proficient Urushihara, and even though this was her 4th joint performance with Wolfe for this work, did not quite come to perfection. However, she resolutely fought until the end so as to not let up on the tension, meanwhile giving a notable performance where the parts which needed to be expressed were sufficiently done so. Although the orchestra also gave a sticky performance of the lengthy prelude, in due course that was responded to by the litheness and delicateness of the solo. While Wolfe showed himself as a careful and conscientious conductor as did his father Colin Davis, Wolfe also showed his individuality by incorporating freely created music here and there, frequently interchanging the hardness and softness of the sounds with superb modulation, thus bringing out Elgar's charm. In the latter half, and in the 'Symphony No. 1' in particular, even in a scenario where Wolfe's unique technique of shifting pulses, such as by syncopation, could evoke lagging, on the contrary agitatedly unfurled the music. He also showed glimpses of boldness, such as by occasionally getting effects with a dynamic different to what is written in the score. Beginning with the horns, a fine performance of the brass instruments in particular shone through.
Hajime TERANISHI (critic)

Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert);
reviewed by Katsura KOISHI

Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert)
~All-Elgar Programme~
Performed on 21st April 2017 at the KOBELCO Grand Hall of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center
Reviewed by Katsura KOISHI
Photos by Takashi IIJIMA; provided by the Hyogo Performing Arts Center
< Performers >
Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra
Joseph WOLFE (conductor)
Asako URUSHIHARA (violin)
< Programme >
Elgar: Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55

This was a concert of only Elgar works - of two monumental works with performance times of over 50 minutes. I couldn't wait to learn what kind of concert this would be. What finally began was a torrential flow of music without any sharp edges whatsoever. The orchestra above all was leisurely and bountifully full of beauty.
The Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (PAC orchestra), needless to say, is made up of young performers who study and perform musical works for a three-year term, which little-by-little contributes to their improvement. The first-chair performers of orchestras such as the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Yamagata Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra insinuate themselves in each section as top performers in such a spirited young group, becoming the core performers and pulling the entire orchestra. I felt this style mostly works well. The basic group is young, where the maestros come as guests. I believe that's how bountiful music that embraces audiences is made.
Conductor Joseph Wolfe, who is also a violinist, young and easy-going, captures the essence of the harmony changes in music. He brings the music out closely together from within at the transition of successively connected sounds. Careful sound-spinning Asako Urushihara, the orchestra and Wolfe himself all are smoothly unified.
Wolfe, as an English conductor, has built an intimate relationship with the music of English musician Elgar. (Although a superficial management takes exception to such a style being regarded as acceptable), Wolfe's way of approaching large-scale works from within strongly conveys a sense of 'England', and thus was a really satisfying concert. The 'all-Elgar programme' should have had been the greatest 'selling point' in this performance, and thus looking forward to future programmes which would satisfy the audiences looking to 'listen to more Elgar'.

Orchestra - Gunma Symphony Orchestra (527th subscription concert)
15th April, Gunma Music Center, Joseph WOLFE (conductor), Michal KANKA (vc),
Elgar: 'Elegy', 'Cello Concerto' and 'Symphony No. 1'

Joe WOLFE is a conductor who, while based in England with the London Symphony Orchestra and others, has also performed numerous times as guest conductor in Japan. He is also the son of Sir Colin David. On this day was an ambitious programme of all-Elgar works, which appears to be Wolfe's own speciality. Certainly in the 'Elegy', the opening work, he created a sentimentality which also entreats for memorial and repose in the midst of tranquillity, as a hushed and reverent sound.
The soloist for the next work, the 'Cello Concerto', was Michal Kanka. He was the recipient of the highest award at the ARD International Music Competition, is also known as a member of the Prazak string quartet. His delicate formation as seen overall was impressive. Above all, his attacks were gentle, which he expressed with poise, and with a fluently beautiful tone and colour. The bow pressure as he transitioned from the end of a phrasing to the next one was just superb, and he brought forth with an introspective and tender sentimental lyricism. Meanwhile, the 4th movement was lively and full of passion, and the entire work was vividly put together with ever-changing emotions at will by tempo variations. Performed next was the 'Symphony No. 1', where [Wolfe] of course showed his seasoned abilities exquisitely in presenting the motto theme, and in his handling when it occasionally appeared. Although [the presentation] wasn't completely difficulty-free in individual instruments etc., it was woven through densely and emotionally with no lack of musical flow and tension.
Yudai MAJIMA (critic)

Ongaku Gendai, May 2015
Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra 286th Subscription concert

This subscription concert featured English conductor Joseph WOLFE, who studied in London, Dresden and Berlin. The performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 36 (Linz) was chosen in accordance with the wishes of the City Philharmonic of including German and Austrian works in the programme, and this had a truly fresh and lively sound. The works of Elgar, compatriot of the conductor, were featured in the latter half, where the Serenade for Strings in E minor was a work from Elgar's early period, composed of three beautiful pastoral-like movements, where the City Philharmonic Orchestra delivered a solid performance with a softness, as if scenes of England appeared before me. The main featured work of the 'Enigma Variations' was also a well-rounded work, and was composed before Elgar completed his subsequent major works. This was a refined performance of a magnificent drama unfolding through 14 variations centred round a theme, where musical portraits of his wife and friends were portrayed in each variation. Wolfe delivered a noble British sound, where he not only had the ability to show in a new light a clear structure of the characteristics of each variation, but also an awareness of the tone of the Japanese orchestra.
(Performance held on 21st February at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall)
(Shigeru FUKUDA)

Ongaku no Tomo, April 2015
Orchestra Gunma Symphony Orchestra (506th subscription concert)

Elgar: Violin concerto Op. 61, and Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 performed on 28th February at the Gunma Music Center, conducted by Joseph WOLFE and featuring violinist Asako URUSHIHARA
The programme for the Gunma Symphony Orchestra February subscription concert of the Elgar violin concerto and the Sibelius Symphony No. 5 was a rather sober one. The conductor was Joseph Wolfe, son of renowned English conductor Sir Colin Davis who passed away two years ago. Firstly, it must surely be noticed not only by this author that it is quite surprising that the aura of Wolfe was somewhat different to that of his father Sir Colin who had very much the aura of an English gentleman.
Wolfe conveyed in the Elgar work an extraordinary ability to precisely align with the solos by delicate agogic movements. Whereas Wolfe's father Sir Colin was the type to adjust the music from the exterior, Wolfe displayed an emotion-based music making by adapting to harmony changes. Wolfe's conveyance of a strong will for contrapuntal treatment is also his forte. It's been a while since I last heard Urushihara's performance, and her matured music making was nice and pleasant. To hear this massive work of nearly 50 minutes in one go is surely the achievement of Urushihara and Wolfe. Wolfe's contrapuntal treatment in the Sibelius brought a more lively music. That will for contrapuntal treatment running round at the end is surely the 'youth' of Wolfe. The Valse Triste by Sibelius was performed as th e encore piece, where a nice lingering moment remained. Wolfe is a conductor to keep an eye out for in future.
(Junichi KUNIDO

Ongaku no Tomo, April 2015
Orchestra Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra

Mozart: Symphony No. 36 (Linz), Elgar: Serenade for Strings Op. 20, and Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme 'Enigma' Op.36, performed on 21st February at Tokyo Opera City, and conducted by Joseph WOLFE
Guest conducted by English born conductor Joseph Wolfe, where the stringed instruments in the Mozart 'Linz' Symphony were arranged in a 14, 12, 8, 8, 3 formation, which was a rather large one for this composer. Although there was a warm sound to the performance, I would have liked a little more articulation and lightness in the ensemble. The 4th movement etc. was well-modulated, and overall I thought this was a Mozart performance of a rather nostalgic style.
The formation for Elgar's Serenade for strings was also rather large, in a 14, 12, 10, 8, 7 arrangement, where the string orchestra had an appealing full low sound. A broad dynamic range with espressivo and passionate cantabile could be heard in the 2nd movement in particular, where the moments of conscientious expression recalled the conductor's roots as a violinist. The creation of romantic music in the Enigma Variations, the final work in the evening's programme, could also be heard. The scale of the 'Nimrod', the 9th variation of this work, which was performed in a deliberate and passionately singing manner, was particularly grand and emotionally moving. However, I also thought that the response of the orchestra during musical transitions was lacking, and it would have been good to have had more preciseness in the music-making.
(Haruo YAMADA)

Ongaku no Tomo, November 2013
Japan Century Symphony Orchestra (184th Subscription Concert)

26th September at The Symphony Hall; Joseph WOLFE (conductor), Hiroshi KIGAWA (horn) and Sam FURNESS (tenor); A. Dvorák: Serenade in D minor, Op. 44, B. Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31 and F. J. Haydn: Symphony No. 99 in E flat major, Hob. I-99
The 184th subscription concert of the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra was guest conducted by Briton Joseph Wolfe, where the opening piece was Dvorák's Serenade for Wind Instruments. Though I could hear at times the high level of the wind instruments players of this orchestra, I could not sense any marked individuality of interpretation, and although the performance was well put-together, I can't say I was deeply moved. The second work was Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31, a unique work with solos for horn and tenor which was performed in celebration of the centennial of the composer's birth with Hiroshi KIGAWA, a well-known young, top-class performer as the first horn player of the orchestra, taking on the solo. Although he started off somewhat unstably, I felt that he eventually came into his own and showed his high level of ability. In future I'd like to see him aim for a more polished completeness of technique and an expressiveness of dense feeling and profound aftereffect. Tenor Sam Furness was in his element by singing in his native English and his expressiveness was quite intense.
The performance of the orchestra, composed only of the stringed instruments led by Wolfe who in turn was supported by the orchestra, was also nice with a meticulous and intimate expressiveness. The latter half of the programme was curiously only Haydn's Symphony No. 99 but this was a good thing. It was an unpretentious and natural performance and on the contrary the beauty of the spiritual divertimento and classical structure embedded in the work came out refreshingly.
(Takayoshi NAKAMURA)

The Chugoku Shimbun, Saturday, 23 February 2013

Handling the ingredients of sound to bring music to life
Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (326th Subscription Concert)
Joseph WOLFE conducting and Asako URUSHIHARA performing her violin solo at the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra 326th Subscription Concert

Perhaps it can be said that it is like feeling a sense of well-being after enjoying savoury cuisine. This is the impression I came away with just after listening to the 326th Subscription Concert of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (held on 15th February at the Hiroshima Bunka Gakuen HBG Hall). The way in which the ingredients are brought to life differs greatly depending on the culinary chef. The same can be said for music.
Briton and young conductor Joseph Wolfe is the son of the globally renowned great master, Sir Colin Davis. But the children of great conductors do not necessarily a great conductor make. My expectations were not particularly high.
English composer Elgar's 'violin concerto' was performed in the first half of the programme. This is a composition which tended towards a diffuseness in order to show the interplay of conflict and pathos due to secret love, and this was calmly and scrupulously interwoven by Japanese violinist Urushihara.
The dialogue of the orchestra led by Wolfe was nice - my expectations were aroused in the latter half where Dvorak's 'Symphony No. 7' was performed - and my expectations were not betrayed, as Wolfe demonstrated a structure of fabulous sound. Perhaps he thoroughly read and analysed the score, but above all he brought to life each successive individual sound. Nevertheless, he portrayed extremely well the overall structure and expressive flow of the work without being over-analytical.
If I must mention one sticky point, it would have to where there were uneven sections here and there at the start. However, I was not even bothered about those bits of sloppiness at this evening's performance. Not only could I sufficiently savour the meaning of each ingredient of sound, as was evident by the care taken to leave a lingering of harmony at the end, the sensibility for the sound was sharp, resulting in the formation of an amazing ensemble.
I hear that significant progress has been shown in British cuisine these days, and I enjoyed that taste of excellent 'musical' cuisine under the baton of Joseph Wolfe. I would even enjoy listening to a recording of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra conducted by him.
(Yumi NOTOHARA, Specially Appointed Assistant Professor at Hiroshima University, Hiroshima City)

The Chugoku Shimbun, Saturday, 16 February 2013

A profound world of transcendental technique
Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra Subscription Concert
Joint performance with violinist Asako Urushihara
Violinist Asako Urushihara in a joint performance with the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra 326th Subscription Concert Subscription Concert

The 326th Subscription Concert of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra was held on 15the February at the Hiroshima Bunka Gakuen HBG Hall, where young Briton Joseph WOLFE took up the baton to conduct profound performance of works, including from Elgar.
Since their public performance in France in 1997, violinist Asako URUSHIHARA once again reunited with the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra to perform Elgar's violin concerto, a lengthy and demanding work amongst such concertos, with a performance time of about 50 minutes. The audience was enthralled by Urushihara's full command of her transcendental technique and by her depth of expressiveness.
Next in the programme was Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. The orchestra gradually built up from a plaintive start to a powerful dynamism, and after exposition of a Dvorakesque peaceful ethnic melody, finally enveloped the audience with a majestic finale.
(Tomomi UESUGI)

Ongaku no Tomo, April 2013
Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (326th Subscription Concert)

Held on 15th February at the Hiroshima Bunka Gakuen HBG Hall, Conductor: Joseph WOLFE, Violin: Asako URUSHIHARA, Programme: Elgar 'Violin concerto', Dvorak 'Symphony No. 7'
Urushihara's violin playing was smooth and sheen, with well-connected sounds capturing the essence of the music. She portrayed even the slow tempo sections meticulously and scrupulously, and her lyrical portrayal of a graceful song of hopeless longing was deeply expressive. Her technique was high and stable for any dynamic range from pianissimo to fortissimo. It can be said that this was a most satisfactory violin solo lacking nothing and exhibiting a good sensibility to the ear.
The expressiveness of Dvorak's Symphony where inner hidden strength could be felt was nice, and with a powerfully vigorous rhythm and propulsive force, the essence of Dvorak sufficiently enveloped the hall. The 2nd movement was portrayed with a lively expressiveness both with intensity as well as with a pastoral-like calm, and the 3rd movement with its 6/4 rhythm was moving, as if the music pouring forth from a vast land with a smell of fresh soil seeped deeply into the audience. The 4th movement had a ferociously unyielding structure, and regardless of some of the conductor's youthful rough spots, I was deeply and fervently struck with a rich sensibility.
(Akihiko HIBINO)

Ongaku no Tomo, September 2011
Japan Century Symphony Orchestra (162nd subscription concert)

A very unique programme featuring Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D major (Op. 36), which although does not quite rival that of the Eroica, is still a very substantial masterpiece, as the performance on this day more than amply demonstrated. The musical interpretations using a hard timpani mallet and restrained vibrato of the stringed instruments clearly showed an awareness of the performance ways of the period, hence the lucidity of the overall sound with a rich and solid bass supporting the full-bodied sound. Joseph WOLFE, who conducted with a torrent of passion but without destroying form, starkly brought forth a well-modulated structural outline envisaged by Beethoven as well as an abundance of emotion with orthodox candour. The orchestra capably responded to Wolfeís
demands and with a densely rich sound and ensemble, the result was a very persuasive performance. The first half featured solo performances of works by Toru Takemitsu and Mozart by members of the orchestra. The crisp technique and solid musicality of the soloists (the performance by concertmaster Tatsunobu GOTO being particularly outstanding) gave a glimpse into the fundamentally high calibre of this orchestra. And, being an orchestra that can demonstrate a truly fulfilling strength of performance with the right conductor, it could be said that the selection of its conductor is the key to its future, especially after becoming a financially self-support organization..

June 9, 2011, The Symphony Hall
(Takayoshi NAKAMURA)

Ongaku no Tomo, September 2011
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (718th subscription concert)

In English composer W. Alwyn's
'Autumn legend' for cor anglais and string orchestra, a rare gem replete with romantic lyricism with a fascinating poetic expression in Fusako NAMPO's solo performance, conductor Wolfe succeeded in subtly drawing out the quintessential English lyric beauty from the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in a solid and lovely performance. Meanwhile, though Sibelius Symphony No. 7 is quite frankly a symphonic work with a peculiar concept as the originality of the orchestration stands out, the subtlety of the structure and form is clearly understood, and Wolfe vividly brings forth the best part of the work with mellowness. Such a very persuasive performance was a nice windfall.

June 15, 2011, Suntory Hall
(Hiromi SAITO)

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra
The 525th subscription concert
January 29 & 30, 2010
Sapporo Kitara Concert Hall

by Takao Nakamura

Wolfe's Tact Responds To The Audience's Expectation

The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra invited Joseph Wolfe to the podium of their 525th subscription concert. His father is the prominent conductor Sir Colin Davis, but he does not share his father's sir name to avoid possible influence that this connection may suggest to people whom he meets.

The program opened with Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture. It is an iconic work of the composer, who was renowned as a master of orchestration, characterized by the hurtling strings as well as the winds and percussions briskly beating out the rhythms. I found Wolfe's wisdom in the choice of this work as the opening piece. The fast passage at the beginning was refreshing, and it was followed by the graceful theme in the smooth performance. The orchestra skillfully described the charm of this work with vivid performance.

The second piece of the program was Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. The soloist was a young Korean violinist, Shin Hyun-Su, who substituted for Viviane Hagner due to her sudden cancellation. So appropriate to her slender appearance on the stage was the slim sound she created with her instrument. Her performance was abundant in young woman's sensibility, and it enchanted the audience.

The program concluded with Sibelius's Symphony No. 2. The United Kingdom has produced a series of conductors who are talented in performing works by Sibelius, and Sir Colin Davis is one of them. The audience's expectation from his son was naturally immense, and he responded with a performance that was dynamic, yet minute, and solid, yet vivid. Contrary to a performance that unnecessarily emphasizes the popularity of the work, his interpretation faithfully reproduced the composer's intentions embedded in the score. I was deeply impressed by his attitude toward music making. I reckon, however, that it takes an exceptionally high spirituality for Wolfe to uphold this attitude, especially considering his young age.

Accolades should be given to the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra for responding to the conductor with superb performances. This concert proved that only excellent conductors could make the orchestra perform with their full abilities.

Hokkaido Shimbun Newspaper, February 10, 2010

Ongaku no Tomo, March 2010
Sapporo Symphony Orchestra
525th subscription concert
January 29, 2010
Sapporo Concert Hall

by Tomohiko Hondo

Joseph Wolfe guest-conducted the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra for its subscription concert. The soloist for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto was a young Korean violinist, Shin Hyun-Su, who substituted for Viviane Hagner.

The program opened with Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture. Wolfe's talent was already obvious from this piece. The masculine sound was full of bursting vitality. I missed Hagner's performance. However, Shin's superb performance compensated the misfortune. With her slim, but penetrating sound as well as finely-honed senses, she skillfully treated Mendelssohn. In the first and third movements, her brisk play was apt to lose contact with the orchestra. However, her exceptional talent was revealed in the highly concentrated musical sense of phrasing.

The second half of the program was Sibelius Symphony No. 2. Wolfe eliminated romantic sentiment from the second movement with exceptional persuasion. Also, he performed the introduction to the first theme of the finale free from any sort of tenaciousness. Some may have felt lack of punch. But, I was overwhelmed by the power, which gushed out of the sound.

The soloist and the conductor should be credited for the success of the concert.

Joseph Wolfe , Conductor
Century Orchestra Osaka 144th subscription concert
September 10, 2009
The Symphony Hall, Osaka

The Century Orchestra Osaka's 144th subscription concert was conducted by Joseph Wolfe, a rising conductor from England.
The evening's program opened with Elgar Serenade op.20 and Sospiri, which were followed by Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with the pianist Andre Watts and Haydn Symphony No. 104 "London".
Each work was treated by the performance that effectively exhibited its characteristics.
In particular, Elgar's works revealed their sensibility in the serene string performance.
The second movement of the serenade was abundant in spontaneous singing. Those were the expressions faithfully followed the sense commonly shared among British people.
In the performance of Sospiri, legato was particularly beautiful, and subtle portamento created swaying sense of beauty.
In the Beethoven piano concerto, strings smoothly flowed. Watts' piano performance had well-received placid lyricism. His colorful timbre lacked in depth. However, the cadenza was powerful, creating exquisite contrast with the orchestra in the second movement. In the third movement, Watts and the orchestra fully revealed their respective power.
The performance of Haydn was also full of energy. The exposition was repeated, giving a strong impression of period performance. The distinctive solid effect was this conductor's characteristic. Sharp rhythm and clear articulation - another lively, sophisticated rendition.

Tadao Koishi, Ongaku no Tomo, November 2009

Little, RTÉ NSO / Wolfe
National Concert Hall, Dublin

Mozart - Don Giovanni Overture.

Elgar - Violin Concerto

Sibelius - Symphony No 1

From the opening bars of a focused account of Mozart's Don Giovanni Overture , it was evident that rising British conductor Joseph Wolfe can aim for high intensity and control it. That was one of the characteristics of Sibelius's Symphony No 1, which closed the concert.

This gripping performance had plenty of rhythmic drive, and Wolfe's way of creating long-term momentum was successful.

Intensity was of the visceral kind - strong on extremities of volume and tempo, but with little fine grading in the middle ground. Nor was the sound particularly disciplined in orchestral balance.

Nevertheless, such strong and committed playing thoroughly deserved the warm applause.

Despite that impressive conclusion, the performance that will linger in my memory came before the interval, and not only because of Tasmin Little's consummate playing of the solo part in Elgar's Violin Concerto.

She just played it, with little obvious striving; and she never milked it for impact. Everything seemed just to happen; and it was especially remarkable that a work famous for being, in the composerユs words, "awfully emotional, too emotional," was captured so deeply via playing that was utterly unsentimental.

It was hard to pinpoint exactly how the dynamics of the relationship between soloist, conductor and orchestra were working, for everything seemed to work as one. The complexity of Elgar's orchestral scoring was subtly handled, with everyone listening as much as they were reading.

The way Elgar knits the solo part into the orchestral textures came across beautifully. This was a rarity - a performance whose completeness was something to treasure because, with any orchestra, conductor or soloist, such transcendence can never be commonplace.

Martin Adams
The Irish Times
28th September '07

London Philharmonic Orchestra
March 2007

The confidence of youth
Paul Driver applauds three passionate performances at the podium

The young conductor Daniel Harding, like the composer Thomas Adès, is the subject of "portrait" concerts at the Barbican, a series mounted by the London Symphony Orchestra and opening with a spectacular account of Mahler's Seventh Symphony. Strictly speaking, the start was a suite of dances from Rameau's opera Hippolyte et Aricie, a charmingly inconsequential, crisply articulated baroque upbeat to Mahler's monumental proto-modernist essay.
Harding was evidently at home in both idioms, but one soon forgot the Rameau. The funereal tread and baleful tenor horn solo of the symphony's beginning - a sonic combination that seems to claw one - announced a visionary serious-ness that was sustained for some 80 minutes with unwavering insight. Harding's super-confidence made for a super-clarity entirely appropriate to this score. The orchestra played with fierce immediacy, but a sort of metallic brilliance; one, though, that was full of dark undertones. The five disparate movements were hammered into a single argument. The performance had the unanswerable assertiveness that defines true style.
A few days earlier, I'd heard a comparably masterful performance of a Mahler symphony - his Ninth - given by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and its young chief conductor, Ilan Volkov, at City Halls, in Glasgow. The withering force of the burlesque third movement became ever more implacable, but by the end of the death-struck, increasingly fragmentary finale, we were decidedly crossing to "the other side". Aptly, the earlier part of the programme had been the premiere of a work, Body Mandala, by that most spiritualist and Buddhist of contemporary composers, Jonathan Harvey.

To call this piece an "evocation" of the purification rituals that Harvey has witnessed in Tibetan monasteries is almost a misnomer, for it seems to want to be the thing itself. To this end, it throws up some strange sounds. A closely entwined oboe quartet stands for the raucous four-note Tibetan oboe that Harvey mentions, and we hear unearthly improvisings by Tibetan-cymbal players. The opening pulsation of low brass A flats has a rough insistency that dominates the piece. Defying such rootedness are unmetred wood-wind roulades that whizz off the page and into space. In its alliance of joyous religiosity and biting orchestral inventiveness, Body Mandala reminds me of such Stockhausen pieces as his 1974 Inori "adorations for one or two soloists and orchestra". But Harvey has long flown free of that decisive influence. His bright new score could not be by anyone else, and Volkov did it proud.
A third young conductor came my way. Joseph Wolfe appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall in a solid programme of works by Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Sibelius. Wolfe is a son of Colin Davis (Volkov's late father was the pianist of the Israel Piano Trio), but such conducting successions are not uncommon: one thinks of the Kleibers, the Jansonses, the Jarvis. The conductor to whom Wolfe bears a striking physical resemblance, however, is Gustav Mahler. He came across as a sympathetic figure, warmly impassioned and well prepared. He had his scores in front of him, but, in Schubert's Symphony No 8 and Sibelius's No 1, rarely looked at them. His reading of the first had a powerful, tragic tautness; the second was a more raw, less disciplined affair. Between the items came a captivating account of the first, in A minor, of Saint-Saëns's two cello concertos, with an amazingly skilful soloist in Pieter Wispelwey. It was a programme all in a minor key.

Sunday Times
1st April 2007

The up and coming conductor, Joseph Wolfe, oversaw this concert of works that spread from the dawn of the Romantic movement in music to near its illustrious close taking in a concerto from the very middle of this period in the history of music.

Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony - he only completed the first two movements - heralds a new sense of feeling in music that leaves behind the strictness of classical sonata form for a broader view of musical expression. The gift of any conductor in this particular work is to marry its marriage of classical design with romantic content. Furthermore any interpretation should be judged on proclaiming the genius of Schubert for expressing everything from anxiety to valediction. Very few composers of any period possess such diversity in their creativity.

The 'Unfinished' Symphony has become, unfortunately, aural wallpaper, so popular, and so frequently is it heard. It gives special delight, therefore, to report pleasure (hardly the appropriate word on hearing this apex of Schubertian expression) from Joseph Wolfe's subtle and absorbing interpretation that was here beautifully played. The quiet opening on double basses gave way to a nervously inclined statement on violins that launched the wide-ranging themes of the first movement. Sometimes fierce, sometimes calm, all sides of Schubert's character were on display and portrayed with the right sense of balance and integrity.

Likewise the second movement, Andante con moto, was true to its title and never lingered. Wolfe found a range of expression from his judicious choice of tempos that lifted the spirits and reinforced the essential nature of well-being in the music. It was a fine performance.

Saint-Saëns's First Cello Concerto, written in 1873, is a good example of the composer's formal innovations in musical structure. Compressing material normally in three movements into one convincing whole displays a mental agility alongside his romantic sensibility. Commentators often proclaim a lack of depth in this French composer's output but, even supposing this to be true, he more than compensated for this 'sin' by his formal experimentation, none more so than in this popular concerto.

Played with the right spirit of romanticism, the Dutch cellist, Pieter Wispelwey, propelled the start of the first movement with true ardour. Never loosing his
intonation in the scurrying scale passages he balanced the various moods with elegance and taste. The orchestra was well balanced by Wolfe who allowed the soloist full reign in displaying tonal lustre.

After the interval came Sibelius's First Symphony, a work that ends a decade of his nationalist- and often literary-inspired music with this attempt at abstract musical expression. In fact the symphony is Sibelius's response to Finnish critics who demanded evidence of his ability to write a non-programmatic symphonic work. Sibelius was the Finnish musical hero of the moment as the nineteenth-century drew to its close and would have regarded the challenge for writing such a work with a mixture of trepidation and relish. In fact what was meant to be the first of its kind in Finnish musical history was usurped by a much younger Finn, Ernst Mielck, a real musical prodigy who wrote an abstract symphony two years before Sibelius composed his. Mielck's work is indebted to German romanticism as expected from a pupil of Max Bruch. Sibelius's work is much more individual though it does sound a lot like Tchaikovsky in places. However the very opening for solo clarinet is striking for setting the tone of the entire work. It also serves as a motto theme that is bought back at the beginning of the finale. It is somewhat surprising to learn this was an afterthought, though a truly inspired one, that appeared a year later when Sibelius revised the work after its premiere in 1899.

What was remarkable about the performance under Wolfe was how the indebtedness to Tchaikovsky was played down in favour of a true Sibelian sonority even in the often-mushy slow movement. Wolfe accentuated the varying woodwind themes above the string mêlée, which produced a true freshness to the fabric of the work. Each movement had an authentic momentum that gave the whole piece a semblance of formal unity rare in most interpretations. The coda in the finale was a true summing up of the emotional roller coaster heard before. Sibelius subsequently produced many more truly idiosyncratic masterpieces but none was to reveal a romantic coherence that lies at the heart of his First Symphony. It is to Wolfe and the LPO's credit that this character was bought to the fore in this wonderful performance.

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

The Dome Concert Hall, Brighton

Young British conductor Joseph Wolfe produced some warm, rich and exciting music at his Brighton debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

He strode to the platform, raised his baton, and began with a magnificent reading of Franz Schubert's Unfinished 8th Symphony.

Wolfe swayed, leapt and jumped around, injecting great fire and urgent playing of quite exquisite music.

Although there may be no great depths in a Saint-Saens cello concerto, Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey certainly produced some fast fireworks in his account of the second Cello Concerto.

To end, Wolfe got yet another magnificent sound from the orchestra in a passionate performance of Sibelius' First Symphony.

It was an epic account that must make him a future star.

Mike Howard
The Argus - Brighton
22nd March 2007

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