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From Britain's The Telegraph newspaper website:
“For most 90-year-olds, it would be enough to attend a concert, let alone conduct it.” In a short speech at the end of this gala performance, Kenneth Sillito, former leader of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields who was back in the first chair for the evening, said what everyone in the audience must have been thinking: Sir Neville Marriner, who celebrates his big birthday on April 15, is in remarkably good shape and still conducts with his old mixture of sprightliness and geniality.
Though he gave a performance that belied his age, the apparently not-so-ancient Marriner will certainly have prompted memories for many of an earlier era in London’s concert life. Younger members of the Festival Hall crowd, meanwhile, will have got a taste of his inimitable manner. Groundbreaking in the 1960s, the ASMF may have been overtaken to some extent by period orchestras, but the band - here including several veterans and all wearing white roses - still delivers stylishly.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K 466. The orchestra’s playing peeled back the years, sounding remarkably like it did in the Mozart cycle Marriner recorded with Alfred Brendel in the 1970s. Here the soloist was Murray Perahia, himself a longtime ASMF associate, a consummate Mozartian who brought his own freshness and insights to the solo part.
Marriner, whose Mozart reached millions beyond the concerts and recordings through his work on Milos Forman’s film Amadeus, delivered a typically satisfying account. In dialogue with Perahia, the slow movement’s serenade worked its magic, and the finale mixed darksome drama with high spirits.
Elgar’s dedication of his Enigma Variations, “to my friends pictured within”, made the work an obvious choice for this programme, and Marriner conducted it with affectionate warmth. Setting things out expansively at the start, Marriner showed that he still has an ear for detail. Playful intimacy was mixed with brilliant panache, and his Nimrod was perfectly judged and free of indulgence: rather than the solemnity with which some conductors varnish it, this was full of striving nobility.
As a curtain-raiser, Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso featured Marriner’s successor as music director of the Academy, the violinist Joshua Bell. Their typically smooth and sweet-toned performance showed that Marriner’s beloved orchestra is in safe hands.