MUSIC / Philharmonia Orchestra / Esa-Pekka Salonen, Royal Festival Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
The neo-classical rhythmic configurations and textures that render Schoenberg's 12-note works simpler than his freely atonal pieces with their complex, fluid rhythms, have not, paradoxically, led to greater understanding. It is perhaps the very dichotomy between traditional rhythm and 12- note method that causes the problem, and this was focused once more in a superb performance of the Piano Concerto by Emanuel Ax and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The paraphernalia of the 19th- century concerto which Schoenberg manages to encompass - Lisztian bravura, octave doublings, melody and accompaniment textures - sit uneasily beside the dense 12-note dialectic. The superb clarity of the interpretation emphasised this, as did the compact integration of stylistic elements in Stravinsky's Orpheus, which essays a rather different neo-classicism.

The petrified horror and grief of the final sequences were splendidly realised by both conductor and orchestra. After this it was disappointing to be treated to a quite unacceptable reading of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Hectic speeds imposed from outside the music and mechanical phrasing failed to reveal Beethoven's tumultuous vision, and we were left wondering where the music had gone.