Classical London Philharmonic / Franz Welser-Most RFH, London

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The Independent Culture
There seems a slight whiff of embarrassment about Franz Welser- Most relinquishing his post as music director of the London Philharmonic. And now that he's leaving, people seem to have decided he's not so bad after all. Well, when you're young (Welser-Most is still in his mid-thirties), it's probably better to be under- than over-praised.

Saturday night was Welser-Most's penultimate concert with the orchestra and offered, as its main attraction, one of Bruckner's least-known symphonies, No 2 in C minor, only a short while after the LSO completed its own cycle at the Barbican. Since Welser-Most was born in Linz, where Bruckner was cathedral organist, you might expect him to make a special point of understanding the composer, and his recording of one of Bruckner's greatest symphonies, No 5, was reviewed pretty favourably in a recent edition of Radio 3's Building a Library.

At one time, No 2 was known as the "symphony of rests", though that would fit most of Bruckner's later symphonies as well. The method of continuity - Bruckner's detractors might say discontinuity - is typical, with sections marked off from each other, concentrating on their separate themes, as if Bruckner were saying "Now, the next topic", or "To return to the idea I mentioned earlier". In this work's slow movement and finale, Bruckner seems particularly fond of cutting short the chance to relish swelling choruses and climaxes - it's a means of pacing, so that energy isn't exhausted until the end. Still, in the finale, he seems on the brink of consummation so many times, you feel quite drained.

I certainly did after this performance, in which an apparently courteous and unconceited young man galvanised the orchestra - after the Scherzo, there was a palpable "Phew!" from people around me. He also kept well- disciplined ensemble - even, in the slow movement, the very spaced-out violin pizzicati counterpointing the horn tune were pretty well together without his making a fuss to prevent them going "per-lop!" Conducting from a miniature score, he seemed to have mastered it thoroughly, and if the whole work had some of the frustrating qualities of a maze, that's probably in its nature.

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