London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Nezet-Seguin, Royal Festival Hall
Thursday 23 October 2008
Conducting is a mystical business. You generally know within seconds of the start of a performance if he or she has what it takes to take an orchestra and an audience to that other place where senses are heightened and the air seems to move a little differently.
The word has been out on Yannick Nezet-Seguin for a while now but it was the performance of Ravel's La Valse at the start of his first concert as Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic that will have convinced a lot of people, myself included, of great things to come.
The erratic heartbeat at the start of the Ravel drew all ears into a strange nocturnal netherworld where murmuring bass voices grumbled and sighed. The emergence of the once-glorious waltz had the sickly-sweet smell of death about it and in exaggerating the rubatos and agogic hesitations of the familiar Viennese style it was as if Nezet-Seguin was holding a distorting mirror up to the music and showing us its imminent collapse. There was a wonderful moment in solo strings where the suggestion of a private soiree was but a fleeting, flickering, memory. The end was terrible in the best sense - grotesque and shocking. This was the moment Nezet-Seguin arrived.
Ace trombonist Christian Lindberg arrived in his customary hurry, signature white shirt flapping in the jet stream. A double-whammy was in the offing. In his own edition of Leopold Mozart's Alto Trombone Concerto a ripe vibrato, wickedly crisp articulation, and even a trill displayed all the agility of a piccolo trumpet. But when he returned in full evening dress to despatch something called Cantos de la Mancha by Jan Sandstrom, suspicions were immediately aroused. Within seconds of commencing a chivalrous fanfare he hurled his trombone to the floor, started screaming at the audience, and ripping at his formal attire. Nervous breakdown or performance art? Both. This "mad scene" for the deluded Don Quixote would have been laughable but for the impossibly beautiful lament at its heart. Lindberg ended up in a pair of leopard skin tights brandishing his instrument's slide like a lance. I'm not quite sure who had the last laugh.
Nezet-Seguin definitely had the last word, a protracted resonance of bells and tam-tam rounding off his richly characterised performance of the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition. Its sensibility was French but the boldness of sonority was entirely Russian with Samuel Goldenberg's pompous oration, for instance, rolling out like Chaliapin's basso profundo.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
The Great British Bake Off, series 6, preview: The most popular show on television is back
National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 winners in pictures
US bookshop offers Go Set A Watchman refunds over false marketing as 'nice summer novel'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar enter Forbes' highest paid actors list for first time
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke