London Philharmonic Orchestra / Kavakos / Wildner, Royal Festival Hall, London

3.00

There are a handful of examples that I can think of where an unknown conductor has stepped in at the eleventh-hour and created an overnight sensation. This was not one of them.

And yet, credit where it is due, a complex and demanding programme such as this – Mahler’s harrowing 6th Symphony preceded somewhat gratuitously (the Mahler is sustenance enough for one evening) by the rarely heard Szymanowski 2nd Violin Concerto – is not something that conducts itself; one has to hand it to the Austrian born Johannes Wildner, he kept his eye on the prize and he kept his nerve.

Mahler was plainly responsible for the packed house – Jaap van Zweden, a victim of the current flu epidemic, is a rising star but hardly yet a household name. But there was also the promise of Leonidas Kavakos – a remarkable violinist whose mystical powers of persuasion begin from the moment his bow touches the strings. Emerging from a desultory ripple of piano and sultry clarinets Szymanowski’s lushly rhapsodic 2nd Violin Concerto is all about the rapturous transfiguration of a humbler music, the music of the composer’s Polish homeland writ large against the sweep of his beloved Tatra Mountains. Wildner was more than adequate in keeping this harmonic hothouse at the required temperature but it was Kavakos’ gloriously intuitive playing that carried this audience on the tip of his bow finally to achieve an extraordinary inner stillness in the becalmed double stopping at the heart of the solo cadenza. This Bachian moment was then poetically echoed in his well-earned encore.

Szymanowski ends with a march, Mahler’s tumultuous 6th begins with one. Wildner quickly registered that the remorseless tread of this music emanates from the underpinning of the string basses. Much of it was strictly in tempo and I for one would like to have felt more give in Alma’s glorious theme with its singing horn counterpoint. But generally speaking the mechanics and spirit of the piece were well served with some heroic playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s trumpets and horns. It was that extra dimension, that force of personality that can truly unlock the slow movement’s heartache (rightly placed third as per Mahler’s original published order) or the finale’s cosmic despair that was ultimately conspicuous by its absence. There’s a world of difference between an orchestra playing extremely well and an orchestra playing for its life.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food