Martin Panteleev possesses the necessary glamour of a visiting European conductor, for conductors of flair must have lots of hair, says Melinda Hughes.
Having spent the day filming the latest spoof song about Fred the Shred, what better way to unwind than a concert at the perfectly located Cadogan Hall. I didn’t realize I was in for such a treat; The English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the roguishly sexy Martin Panteleev, overwhelmed me with an exquisite programme of Grieg, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.
Although the ECO is essentially a chamber orchestra, this didn’t stop them filling the expansive hall with resonance and vibrancy. They often have guest conductors jetting in, which brings such glamour and passion to this corner of Chelsea.
I am an admirer of their latest find, the Italian conductor Gianluca Marcianò who comes to the UK each year to conduct the ECO at Grange Opera, he is a ball of energy and can often be seen dancing on the podium. Tonight was no different with the arrival of Bulgarian Martin Panteleev.
I must just point out now that British orchestras work under tremendous pressure and due to such limited rehearsal time, it makes them probably the best sight-readers in the world. It is not uncommon for a conductor to fly in and have just one afternoon session with his new orchestra before a performance.
You never would have known this with Grieg’s Suite in the Olden Style Opus 40 which kicked off with energy and vibrancy and a lovely connection between players and conductor. Panteleev conducted with great charm, command and a lightness of touch. He also possesses the necessary glamour of a visiting European conductor, for I believe conductors of flair must have lots hair.
The highlight of the concert was of course Derek Han, the world famous American-Chinese pianist who was huge in the nineties, having performed and recorded with the top orchestras in the world. His attack on Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor was stunning; his hands ran across the keyboard like a giant tarantula in chase. His playing was dazzling, not too indulgent, yet sweepingly romantic.
This was a special reduced scoring for string orchestra and I did feel at times that the Steinway concert grand swamped the ECO a little, but again, how can one compete with such energy? The ECO was soon to get its own back with their secret weapon, the superb cellist Caroline Dale.
Caroline Dale, an unassuming yet elegant leader of her section was the double for Jacqueline Du Pré in the film Hilary and Jackie. She simply stunned me with her solo in Tchaikovsky’s Andate Cantabile. What an accomplished and poised player possessing such beautiful phrasing, perfect intonation and sensitive playing. I was deeply moved and hope to see her perform more and more as a soloist.
The English Chamber Orchestra have their London home at The Cadogan Hall so its worth checking out their website for up and coming concerts as they often have some star turns and fabulous conductors and if you’re feeling generous, they would be a wonderful orchestra to support.