The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London covered a lot of ground in Royce Hall on Tuesday night. It started by paying tribute to Aaron Copland, turned into a father-and-son act with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, tried desperately to make something of Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony and ended as a pop concert with three ultra-pop encores.
The Royal Philharmonic, founded by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946, was last heard here in Royce Hall in 1969, Antal Dorati conducting. The conductor of the present concert was Yehudi Menuhin; the soloist was his 30-year-old son Jeremy Menuhin. The latter confrontation was something like that of the aging Wotan and the stripling Siegfried. As in Wagner, youth won the contest.
Any nasty suspicion that the junior Menuhin was sitting center stage at the Steinway because he is the son of the conductor was speedily dispelled. He is a pianist who can hold his own in distinguished company. He is admirably serious in intent and execution; he has no traffic with anything resembling superficial mannerism. His fingers are fleet and sure, his tone is crisp and deftly modulated, and his sense of Beethoven style is cultivated, intelligent and unfailingly musical.
An encore after such a satisfying performance of the Beethoven Fourth could be presumptuous even considering the cordial audience reception. But no one resented it because Debussy's "Jardins sous la pluie" showed that Menuhin has a lively sense of color and rhythm, and that his fingers are obedient no matter what the task.