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.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 3 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 4 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
New Tricks: Dennis Waterman to leave drama after a decade of crime-solving
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'