Classical: Back to Hungarian roots for an earthy Bartok

LSO/SARAH CHANG BARBICAN, LONDON

AT WHAT point does the child prodigy hatch, so to speak, to reveal the fully-fledged musician within? At what point, if ever, does astonishment at what they can do become recognition of why they do it? Sarah Chang has been with us for a lifetime - or so it would seem - but at 18 she has truly come of age. There is still the girlish glee at tricky passages well-dispatched, but she has grown, and her sound has grown, because now she has something to say. From the outset of Bartok's Second Violin Concerto in Wednesday's London Symphony Orchestra concert she was surprising. The opening melody was heartily, even gruffly, sung. You felt that she knew precisely where in the Hungarian heartlands the piece originated.

The folk elements in Bartok's music need singing even where they are played. And Chang "sang" them in different, often unschooled, voices, with judicious use of slides conveying very particular intonations. The beautiful plaint that opens the slow movement was an old song, simple and unaffected, almost half-remembered. Chung lent it a primitive sophistication - which is the contradiction at the heart of Bartok.

Most concertos set up their primary opposition between the soloist and the orchestra. In this work, it's soloist versus soloist, realist versus dreamer. Chang caught it beautifully. She wasn't afraid to be plain, even downright unlovely, while the fantasy went beyond the merely cosmetic. Sir Colin Davis and the orchestra were big, bold and - wherever necessary - uncouth.

All of which seemed like very bad manners indeed in the wake of Elgar's Serenade for Strings (now, that's what I call capricious programming). Not that there was anything genteel about Davis's reading, or the enormous string band he chose to deploy. It was a mighty, sumptuous noise, but a little like outing an essentially salon piece and insisting that it behave like one of Elgar's butch symphonic works.

Beethoven similarly well-upholstered. His Seventh Symphony emerged like a heavyweight from eight rounds with Richard Wagner. Not so much "the apotheosis of the dance" as a knees-up in Valhalla. Even allowing for Davis's penchant for the bigger-is-better, Napoleonic view of Beethoven, large forces (which Beethoven used in his performances of this symphony) need not mean dense and opaque texturing. Little was revealed here beyond the broadest outlines of the piece. Double woodwinds were absorbed into the string sound, with much detail simply lost. If that great finale is the engine-room of 18th-century symphonic music as it powers into the 19th century, then I want to hear more of the mechanism. Divided violins would have helped to delineate the rhythms, not least in the thrilling shoot-out in the coda, but the problem went deeper than that. Size matters? Not on this showing.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam