London Philharmonic Orchestra / Elder, Royal Festival Hall, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Engaging Anne-Sophie Mutter for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is certainly one way of guaranteeing a full house for orchestral rarities by Martinu and Strauss. Throw in a rather charming public defence of the Strauss - the much-maligned Symphonia Domestica - by the conductor, Mark Elder, and you've got yourself an event.

Mutter in Mendelssohn shouldn't be so surprising given the countless occasions she's paraded this much-loved concerto around the world's stages. But such is the woman's technical and musical prowess that not one phrase came upon us with so much as a hint of predictability.

The range of dynamics, with all their attendant colours, the way in which Mutter made room for nuance regardless of tempo (and my goodness her impulsiveness kept Elder on his toes), the sheer seductiveness of her sound - all this re-pointed the work in ways one might not have thought possible.

But hearing is believing and even the extraordinary aural deceptions of Bohuslav Martinu's The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca are explainable. The very opening of this wonderful triptych has multiple divisions of strings (almost a pointillist technique) overlaid in such a way as to make the surface shimmer.

The depth and density of the scoring throughout gives the music an almost hallucinogenic quality as if, like the paintings, it is illuminated from within. But out of this strangely diffuse music come these moments of visionary clarity and consonance - moments of almost biblical (in the filmic sense) revelation. Technically (not least from a rhythmic point of view), it doesn't get much trickier than this. But Elder and the London Philharmonic really brought it home.

And then there was Strauss' Symphonia Domestica lending a whole new meaning to the concept of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Elder's engaging introduction may have persuaded some in the audience that this somewhat indigestible homage to the joys of married life had nothing whatever to do with "bath-time, cutlery, or curtains" but even he could never erase the memory of Ken Russell's lurid biopic wherein the work's ever more preposterous climaxes had rather more to do with Herr Strauss' performance in the bedroom than on the concert platform.

But again Elder and the LPO delivered on both the tenderness (lovely oboe d'amore) and the lustiness of the piece with prodigious tumbling horns and high-stopped trumpets more than a little suggestive that if you were not a morning person then the Strauss household was definitely not the place to be.

Comments