Classical: Chailly's serial thriller

ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL LONDON

IN ITS Festival Hall programme on Thursday evening, the first of two this year, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra gave a performance of Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces which lived up in every way to the ensemble's international reputation. But, for reasons that are hard to understand, its form in Brahms's Second Symphony seemed indifferent. Perhaps the problems of texture, rhythmic ensemble and articulation in Schoenberg's trail-blazing masterpiece concentrated energies in a way that the more familiar territory of Brahms failed to, or perhaps the absence of the famously responsive Concertgebouw acoustic for Brahms's warm lyricism was a crucial factor. But, whatever the cause, the playing lacked electricity and the conductor Riccardo Chailly's sometimes rather sectional view of Brahms's flowing dialectic did not help matters.

The acceleration that he introduced to bring the finale home to its triumphal conclusion did not seem to flow inevitably from what had gone before, but was imposed from outside the music. Brahms's cumulative rhythmic and thematic workings don't need help of this kind. And what were the trombones doing at the cadence? Their final blazing fortissimo chord was delivered at a pale mezzo-forte and let the coda down most surprisingly.

Much of the rest of the interpretation seemed decent but run-of-the- mill, and certainly not what might have been expected after the superb Schoenberg. In truth, Brahms's Violin Concerto, which opened the concert, did not augur that well, since the greatly gifted soloist Vadim Repin substituted a worthy gravity for genuine fire and found a similar response in his accompanists.

Five Orchestral Pieces, however, was truly splendid. This extraordinary music still retains its ability to shock 90 years after its composition, and also to bewilder, judging by a number of stony faces near me during the generally warm and richly deserved applause at the close. The main reason for listeners' difficulties was made all the more obvious in Chailly's wonderfully clear unfolding of Schoenberg's invention. We are bemused at the outset because the composer plunges us immediately into the heart of a complex development, or so it seems, without the benefit of being introduced to the musical material in a more leisurely style through classical exposition. Almost before we can grasp the topics under heated discussion, the debate is over, and much the same happens in the fourth piece.

But in an age that - through cinema, TV and technology - is growing used to taking in massive amounts of information at high speed, Schoenberg may at last be coming into his own. And for those who still like to have their musical arguments progress at a slower pace, the second and third movements generate a sensuous beauty that enchants the ear.

All this was shaped and coloured with exquisite clarity and understanding by Chailly and his superb players, and I was grateful for what could still perhaps be viewed, after all this time, as a brave piece of programming.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas