London Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Davis, Barbican Hall, London
A fast ride in a cabriolet racer
Thursday 18 July 2002
On the evidence of Sunday's LSO concert at the Barbican, switching from Sir Colin to Sir Andrew Davis is rather like hopping from a classy limousine to a cabriolet racer. Sir Andrew's Prokofiev Five certainly suited the weather. Others might have unfolded the opening Andante with greater spaciousness, but Davis's brightly lit development section helped clarify where Prokofiev's arguments had sprung from and where they were going.
The keenly accented scherzo became black comedy; fast and cynical with brilliant solo clarinet work from Andrew Marriner. I loved the trio's lazily quacking trumpets, the way they gradually picked up speed to join the first section's hectic return. No one would have claimed tidiness in every department, but then this wasn't that sort of performance. And there were other memorable details. I'm thinking of the desperation at the climax of the Adagio as the quiet, waltz-time introduction came screaming back, and the finale's slithery coda, a perennially shocking denouement.
Sir Andrew had opened the concert with Stravinsky's Quatre Etudes of 1930, cameo flashbacks to Petrushka that also pan forwards. The first, a primitive dance, granted valuable clarity to the timpani; the second became a tautly coiled clockwork toy on the rampage, the third a study in sullen woodwind sonorities, while the Spanish-flavoured finale was as much a study in musical stealth. Again Davis captured the distinctive flavour of each movement, and the music sounded so good. A year or so ago and the Barbican's stage would have kept much of the detail to itself, but not on Sunday, when the woodwinds really did project.
For many the concert's centrepiece will also have been its main attraction – a rare outing for Karl Goldmark's affable First Violin Concerto, played by the latest violinist to record it (for EMI), Philadelphia-born Sarah Chang. Goldmark was a Hungarian who made it big in Vienna and this particular work was, in its day, virtually as famous as the Brahms or Tchaikovsky concertos. If asked to rate it, I'd probably opt for midway between the Dvorak and the Bruch First. Goldmark's First is a loveable concerto that just occasionally doffs its hat to the halls of academe (two dry fugues seem somewhat incongruous) but Chang's spontaneous performance focused on its rustic charm and mel- odic warmth.
At the start of the work she waited patiently, her head bowed, while Davis cued a crisp orchestral opening. But once into the fray she turned on the heat. The Concerto's lyrical kernel is a slow movement which certain Old Masters performed out of context, though you'd need to be a fairly fit fiddler to tackle the outer movements' punishing passage work. Chang acquitted herself with honours: her look of triumph – and relief – as she dispatched her final flourish said it all. Davis and the LSO provided an accommodating and uncommonly vital accompaniment.
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Zayn Malik releases first solo song 'I Won't Mind' in 'Zaughty' collaboration with Naughty Boy
Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
Poldark review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans