LSO shines under Harding in Schubert 5 and Das Lied von der Erde 20/11/13

‘Wednesday night’s concert saw the London Symphony Orchestra with principal guest conductor Daniel Harding in what seemed a slightly odd programme. With Schubert’s miniature masterpiece theSymphony no. 5 in B flatpaired with Mahler’s lofty orchestral song cycle Das Lied von der Erde, I was worried the Schubert would be somewhat neglected against what Leonard Bernstein described as Mahler’s greatest work. Such worries, it transpired, were totally unjustified. Mezzo Christianne Stotijn outshone tenor Burkhard Fritz in the latter piece, but throughout the evening it was the LSO that was the highlight. Even in the most intimate textures of Schubert’s smallest symphony, they demonstrated an excellent rapport with Harding, whose clear enthusiasm was made manifest in an orchestral sound now crystal clear, now irresistibly voluptuous, and always totally committed.’

Read my whole review of Wednesday’s concert on Bachtrack here.

The symphony that is not one: Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Gergiev and the LSO 6/11/13

‘What is there to say about Hector Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette? A “dramatic symphony” in seven movements, featuring small and large choruses, and three soloists (two of whom sing for around five minutes each and one who sings for around 30), as well as a treasure trove of unusual instrumental combinations and sounds, it is safe to say this is something of an odd bird. Add to this a libretto by Émile Deschamps which not only misses out a great deal of Shakespeare’s drama but goes so far as to reorder it and even mentions the playwright by name, and it becomes apparent there’s something truly wacky afoot. And even that’s leaving out Berlioz’s frankly astonishing approach to melody and harmony. With echoes of Wagner, Brahms, and even Debussy scattered throughout, as well as a mind-bending reimagination of the Baroque “mad scene” for a new age, it is difficult to believe this piece was written in 1839.’

Read the rest of this review at Bachtrack.

Uncanny, surpassing Berlioz from Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican 31/10/13

‘A smattering of confused applause greeted gay rights activist Peter Tatchell to the Barbican Hall’s stage before the first instalment of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Berlioz cycle under Valery Gergiev. Stating that he did not wish to disrupt the performance, Tatchell made it clear he was there to protest Gergiev’s noted unwillingness to criticise Vladimir Putin’s record on human rights, particularly with regard to Russia recently prohibiting the dissemination of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”. Such demonstrations are nothing new to Valery Gergiev, whose concerts over the last few months have frequently been the subject of such protests, often far more disruptive than Tatchell’s restrained effort. The security (and an irate principal trumpet) having removed Tatchell from the platform, an apparently untroubled Gergiev came to the platform and launched a seemingly possessed LSO into some of the most thrilling Berlioz one could ever hope to hear.’

Read the whole review at Bachtrack here. Very much looking forward to Roméo et Juliètte on Wednesday…

Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra bring their Barbican Brahms cycle to an end

‘I sat down to hear the last concert of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra’s Brahms cycle under Riccardo Chailly at the Barbican with high hopes. Having heard the hype, it seemed that the restrained autumnal shades of the Violin Concerto in D major(with superstar Leonidas Kavakos) and the sheer compositional majesty of theSymphony no. 4 in E minorhad the potential to be the high points of an already much-vaunted cycle. Chailly’s “radical return” to Brahms, as Decca are calling it, has been the subject of much scrutiny. An insistence on cutting through years of performance tradition to find an interpretation that Brahms himself might have understood – according to Chailly – has more than a whiff of the “authentic” performance movement about it, and it was along these lines that the Italian’s interpretations ran. With invariably brisk tempos and highly marked articulation, it was the control of a Norrington that Chailly exercised over his orchestra, and despite the audience’s cheers, I’m not sure it always worked, however impressive a display of Regiemusik it may have been.’

Read the whole review at Bachtrack here.

It was with a heavy heart that I wrote this review. having heard from a colleague that a friend described the Gewandhaus’s performance of the Second Symphony as ‘the best performance of the piece he’d ever heard or could imagine hearing’ I was expecting something rather better than what I heard. I take no pleasure in being as negative as I was, but a barnstorming LSO concert last night relieved my mood considerably; review for Bachtrack to follow…