Music: Getting the bit between his teeth

LPO / Welser-Mst RFH, London

Thursday's London Philharmonic concert conducted by Franz Welser- Mst was billed as part of the South Bank's Emerging Light festival of Arvo Prt's music. Those in the audience knew better. They knew why they were there. Some from the back sneaked into empty seats nearer the front, some left after the interval, the business over. Prt was present, and got generous applause for his Third Symphony, which opened the concert. That was followed by Sibelius's Violin Concerto, Maxim Vengerov the soloist; and Vengerov got more than generous applause, he got adulation.

In his stacked-heel boots, he has the slightly spivvy air of a supercilious waiter, but the music transforms him. Eyes closed, leaning back from the waist like a soul singer, he embodies Romantic Rapture. When Sibelius allows the violin moments of silence, Vengerov stands, swaying slightly, an athlete eager to re-enter the race. Balance between hands, bow and strings is exquisite. Even the orchestral musicians watch him.

His tone is superbly clean (a 1727 Stradivarius helps), his control absolute. Although the Sibelius concerto invites extravagant manners, Vengerov plays with refinement. The odd blurred note is swept aside by his command of pace and tension. It may be a breach of etiquette to play an encore in an orchestral concert, but no one was complaining. In Ernst's Variations on The Last Rose of Summer, an immoderate morsel of 19th-century violinism, Vengerov revealed a wry humour to match his virtuosity. It seemed that at any moment he might start playing with his teeth. No doubt the strad's insurance policy forbids such frivolity.

There were other works on the programme, even if no one was too bothered. Prt's 1971 symphony bridges the epistemological break between his Sixties avant-gardism and later adorational mode. Euphonious, it still contains hints of menace, as in the first movement, when a brief theme creeps back and forth between woodwind and cellos. The music's sombre processional is repeatedly interrupted, by thunderous timpani or farty trombones, by a few startlingly kitsch moments for celesta. It is a work which, always hinting at a pictorial element, reminds us that Prt has written many film scores.

Graham Lee gave an engaging performance of Frank Martin's Ballade for trombone. As a solo instrument, the trombone can seem faintly comic. Here, pitting its wits against a piano buried deep in the orchestra, it became expressive, even soulful. Welser-Mst closed the evening with a well-managed account of Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony. The shocking disjuncture between the opening Largo and the breezy raucousness of the last two movements has engendered all manner of theorising. Here the music seemed able to stand on its own, even if its frenetic final moments almost knocked Welser- Mst off his feet.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...