London Symphony Orchestra / Gardiner, Barbican Hall, London
Monday 03 January 2011
The tricky opening chord of Weber's Der Freischütz overture needed warming up – didn't we all – but a quartet of horns quickly lent a dappled glow to the proceedings and the mercury began to rise.
Weber's most dramatic opera sports an overture full of surprises and special effects and Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra barnstormed through its melodrama of fiery string tremolandi, soulful solo clarinet and show-stopping declamations.
There was emphatic drama in Beethoven's Violin Concerto, too, with soloist Viktoria Mullova warming up for business during the final page or so of the orchestra's opening tutti. Playing on gut strings did not compromise the no-nonsense power of her fiery arpeggiations: this was, from both soloist and conductor, a robust and very immediate account of this most classically challenging of concertos.
Speaking personally, though, I missed those moments of spiritual repose wherein the soloist reflects on the sublime simplicity of the first movement themes, allowing them more space and quiet introspection. Mullova remained strictly in tempo through all of these moments – her playing felt and sounded, for my taste, too unyielding. Not even the unexpected arrival of that new theme in the slow movement achieved a truly transcendent effect. But it was gutsy for sure and the finale's peasant merrymaking enjoyed some unexpectedly graceful encounters with the orchestra's mellifluous first bassoon, Daniel Jemison.
Then for the first time, to my knowledge, the LSO violins and violas were on their feet. In another nod to period style, Gardiner had them dispense with chairs and bodily throw themselves into the swing and uplift of Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony. Amazing what a difference it made to the sound and, of course, the visual effect, liberating the fizzing chamber-like immediacy of the string music so that it really sang and danced. It was a cracking performance which kept everything on its toes – literally – and made it hard for those of us seated to remain so during the whirling saltarello of the finale. Never was music in the minor mode more intoxicatingly sunny and rarely have its rhythms sounded fresher.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre