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Souvenir of a Dear Place

Fremantle Chamber Orchestra

Rudolf Koelman (violin)

Christopher van Tuinen/ Jessica Gethin

reviewed by Neville Cohn                                          


Rudolf Koelman, who frequently visits Perth to give performances with the Fremantle Chamber Orchestra, sounds at the top of his game in this recording made in Fremantle Town Hall.


Let it be said at once that the FCO sounds transformed on this occasion. I cannot recall ever before hearing this ensemble at such a high level of presentation – and Koelman employs his formidable command of the violin to dazzling effect.


FCOSarasate’s much loved Zigeunerweisen springs into intense life. Whether reflective or passionate, both soloist and orchestra are consistently impressive.


In the lengthy opening solo of Ravel’s Tzigane, Koelman sounds in his element, bringing to this cruelly difficult work an understanding of the genre and a physical command of the violin that results in a reading almost beyond criticism in the conventional sense – apart from some very brief loss of focus in rapid pizzicato. The presentation throbs with intensity.


Chausson’s Poeme is a world away from the virtuosity of the Sarasate and Ravel works – and it is given a memorable reading in which Koelman reveals its idiosyncratic secrets with an understanding of style and mood that elevates the performance to the stars. I cannot readily recall a performance of this work that equals this beautifully conceived reading. Poeme, in less than totally assured hands, can so easily sound mawkish and sentimental. Not here. This performance is a model of its kind.


Tchaikowsky’s Souvenir of a Dear Place is seldom heard, apart from the celebrated Melodie. More’s the pity because it brims with memorable moments. In the outer sections of the Scherzo, Koelman maintains a sizzling, faultless pace with a finely contrasted slower central section. The concluding Melodie is beautifully fashioned.


Christopher van Tuinen and Jessica Gethin do sterling work on the podium.