London Symphony Orchestra/ Previn, Barbican Hall
Monday 22 December 2008
It doesn’t seem so very long ago (but it was) that Andre Previn crossed over from the darkside (a.k.a. Hollywood) and sought the classical limelight in London.
He sported a Beatles haircut and a spring in his step and Eric Morecombe called him Mr. Preview. The twinkle in his eye hasn’t gone but the spring in his step has and, approaching the podium as gingerly as he does his 80th birthday next year, it is a physically frail Previn who now doesn’t stand but sits before the orchestra he made so very much his own – the London Symphony.
But first appearances apart, Previn’s passion for this orchestra and for the music they share remains undiminished and if you watch him carefully you’ll see in the old hand gestures that the musical perceptions are as sharp as ever. In the Suite from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, subversive harmonies brought a clear physical response with the familiar shake of the left hand greatly intensifying vibrato and encouraging string lines to sing out. Pyrotechnical horn descants were equally favoured. It’s a composerly way he has of acknowledging this detail or that and now that he is spending more time on his own pieces, it was only fitting that he bring one along.
The Double Concerto for Violin and Contrabass dates from 2004 and has never before been aired in Europe. It’s interesting to hear how Previn’s recent compositions more openly reflect his own private enthusiasms – like Erich Korngold, whose hothouse lyricism permeates just about every fibre of this lively and entertaining piece. There’s Walton in there, too, and a piccolo solo on loan from Shostakovich. But the lush palette of harmonies is pure Korngold of the Hollywood era and the fun of the piece lies in subverting expectations as to how the “little and large” solo parts pan out. Rather cheekily it’s the contrabass - dazzlingly played here by the young Slovakian Roman Patkolo – who gruffly gets to whisper most of the sweet nothings to his amorous partner – Anne-Sophie Mutter. Ungainly he may be (this is, after all, a kind of Beauty and the Beast set-up) but under the fingers of this amazing player beauty and agility are a given. So who’s the beast now? The unaccompanied duet at the heart of the piece essentially ratifies an unlikely union made in heaven and unlikely to be repeated here on earth.
Earlier in the evening Anne-Sophie Mutter reminded us that hers is still the most seductive sound in the business when she played the socks off Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 raising smiles all round at the surprise appearance of a corpulent, over-rouged, French-style gavotte in the finale. Previn, who openly espouses the Viennese style and did so benevolently, if rather sedately at times, in Haydn’s “London Symphony” No.104, enjoyed pointing up its vulgarity.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party