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With violinist Joszef Lendvay indisposed, we will never know how the Bartók First Vioin Concerto would have sounded played by the son of a Hungarian gypsy player.

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Usher Hall

Star rating: * * * * *

 

But his stand-in was far from being an also-ran: young Hungarian Barnabás Kelemen turned in a spellbinding performance of the piece, full of spontaneity and joyful energy. It is music that he clearly has coursing through his veins, and all attention focused on his charismatic presence.

His first movement had fulsome romantic intensity, with its heart firmly on its sleeve – as befits a piece written as a love letter to one of the objects of the composer’s affections – but his second was full of rustic vigour.

He was even called back for two flashy encores – which he clearly relished.

But the real stars of the evening were the Budapest Festival Orchestra players, under the energetic conductor Iván Fischer, who were as at home in Mahler as they were in the music of their homeland.

With brilliant, soloistic woodwind and gloriously syrupy strings, they gave a searing account of his Fifth Symphony, travelling from the depths of funereal despair to the brightest of life-affirming conclusions in the course of a gripping – and draining – hour of music.

The audience rightly raised the roof with their appreciation.

By DAVID KETTLE
Published on Monday 27 August 2012 02:20