Minnesota Orchestra/Vanska, Barbican Hall, London
Tuesday 03 March 2009
Osmo Vanska is clearly a very good thing for Minnesota. You can sense when an orchestra is raising its game, pushing its boundaries, and playing to the limit of its possibilities. That was the feeling here: a decent orchestra made to sound a whole lot better by the sheer dynamism and musicality of its music director. I'll wager Minnesota will be a very different orchestra by the end of Vanska's existing contract in two years' time.
For now, it was the energy you came away humming, and to that end a little something showy and kinetic from home kick-started the proceedings. The night before John Adams' Dr Atomic was premiered in London, a smaller bang, if you like, was provided by his Slonimsky's Earbox. This is essentially Adams' Stravinsky homage. The musical snakes-and-ladders of the explosive opening throw up all manner of harmonic incident, and we even appear to drop in on Petrushka's Shrovetide Fair, such is the motoric, almost folksy, manner. But ultimately the pulsations are pure Adams: another hairy ride in one of his fast machines, which had Vanska and orchestra taking awkward corners with Formula One skill.
I liked the still centre of the piece, where one viola echoed by others almost invoked the Samuel Barber that followed. Joshua Bell played the Violin Concerto with rapt, confidential beauty, slipping into the salon-like texture of the opening so unassumingly that he might easily have been just another member of the string section. It was that awareness of his surroundings, that chamber-music intuition, that made this performance so revealing. The virtuosic finale still sounds like an afterthought – a last-ditch attempt to get in some fireworks. Bell took those in his stride like a mischievous Puck gone bad. And, as if that weren't enough, he'd brought an encore – an insane set of variations called Souvenir d'Amérique by Henri Vieuxtemps. Basically, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in poncy harmonics.
Finally, the serious business of displaying the orchestra's classical credentials. Vanska's account of the Eroica Symphony was driven by an almost delirious vitality, an incisiveness in which the strings were the dominant force, somewhat, I felt, at the expense of the winds. Still, Vanska engendered a sense of communal excitement at the work's audacity and perennial newness. Always a good sign.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up