The orchestra are taking their mid-morning break, a chance to break off from concentrating hard. A rather bigger group than yesterday, with more brass and percussion in particular, they have nonetheless been on the money from the start.
Beginning with Elgar’s violin concerto, with its glorious orchestral introduction, must have helped. It also helped to have Alexander Biadjiev set it off. The first of today’s competitors, he got the tempo just right, not exactly carefree (it’s not that kind of piece), but allowing the orchestral sound to glow. He was pretty good following the soloist (Bartosz Waroch) too, helped by a really natural conducting style, uncramped and free – it means there are none of the sudden alarming gestures that put orchestras on edge. His rehearsal technique was also well judged, allowing the orchestra the chance to read through the concerto without stopping too much, and only briefly when he did.
Following him, Ben Gernon, one of the competition’s British entrants. He also chose not to stop his turn at the Elgar, managing to get to the end of the first movement without a break. He has a quite different style from Biadjiev, prepared to get stuck right into the orchestra with extrovert gestures. But he can switch to a tighter beat if need be, which it is in McCormack’s piece With Echoes and Lights.
It no doubt helps that he is obviously not a stranger to some if not many in the orchestra, but he talks well to them and has a clear idea of what he wants to say when he does speak. Crucially, what he says generally has a positive effect. And always a good sign when you get a laugh out of an orchestra – both managed it – since very few orchestras are so cruel as to actually laugh at a conductor rather than with one.