wed 19/06/2024

Viktoria Mullova, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe review - a rainbow of brilliant artistry | reviews, news & interviews

Viktoria Mullova, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe review - a rainbow of brilliant artistry

Viktoria Mullova, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe review - a rainbow of brilliant artistry

The great violinist and her double-bassist son bring light and life to a varied programme

Mullova smiles! In relaxed mood with son MishaBoth images by Matthew Jones

There should eventually be a plaque on the outside of the Fidelio Orchestra Café in Farringdon, to the effect that London’s musical life after lockdown re-ignited here. And how, in early July, with Steven Isserlis exuberantly stepping up to play Bach before a rapt small audience.

Even now that so many venues have started cautiously opening up, it was still a physical and emotional jolt of the best kind to hear another of the greatest string sounds in the world, that of violinist Viktoria Mullova, and the double-bass thrumming in the resonant woody space of her son Misha Mullov-Abbado at the prescribed two metres’ distance/closeness.

What’s changed since the summer? The fact that concerts now begin in candlelight, and half an hour earlier, at 7pm, to accommodate a prompt 10pm closure; no more, for now, the kind of spontaneous post-event joy in playing ever more, such as happened when Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy played violin sonatas with Alina Ibragimova into the small hours. But every guest appearance has its own distinct flavour, and this one, following on the heels of a recording, saw mother and son playing together live for the first time this year.

Listened to attentively before the usual excellent meal served by Alan Rosenthal, the programme was ideal for the space and ambience: a mix of mellow, visceral and even profound. Mullov-Abbado, despite his Italian-Russian parentage, is a cool young London dude recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, very likable; his compositions are sui generis, no pale crossover between classical and jazz. Some are easy to grasp, but not long in to the concert, Brazil gave us an edge-of-seat unpredictability which reminded me of the quartet works of Caroline Shaw. There’s total musical unanimity between bass and violin, with some heart-leaping synchonisations in changing rhythms and missed beats. Mullova, as always, seems cool if you just look at her, but the sounds tell a different story; when she speaks, it’s with a rather beautiful intonation and a shyness which seems to seek backing from her son. Mullova and Mullov-Abbado in the Fidelio Orchestra CafeThere were two very different cores to the repertoire: the faster movement of two from Bach’s B minor Sonata, in which Mullov-Abbado’s fast and furious realization of the bass meeting the lyric line above proved phenomenal, and one of the Brazilian numbers which punctuated the evening, Caico, which Mullova cited as being especially close to her heart; the way she played it, with inward beauty, proved the point.

Her son’s composing has exuberant wit, too: impossible not to laugh out loud at his audacity in the mad waltz of Little Astronaut. Its counterpart in the post-dessert encore, Estonian composer Lepo Sumera’s pastiche waltz for the cartoon Spring Fly, proved almost as wacky in the interpretation. I’ve probably heard that piece more than any other in live performance over the past decade, thanks to Paavo Järvi’s use of it as an encore calling-card with his Estonian Festival Orchestra at least twice every Pärnu Festival. Which is where Mullova, having given a phenomenal interpretation of the Sibelius Violin Concerto there, first heard it. She and her son gave it a wonderful twist last night, and then embraced with obvious joy, cheek to cheek. No doubting the warmth in all that; and I could happily sit through the whole thing again.

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