LPO / Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London

4.00

It's a paradox, but Vladimir Jurowski made Rachmaninov's
The Isle of the Dead a place of irresistible allure. As ferryman of this compact masterpiece, he fought the Festival Hall acoustic and won. It was almost as if he created his own acoustic.

It's a paradox, but Vladimir Jurowski made Rachmaninov's The Isle of the Dead a place of irresistible allure. As ferryman of this compact masterpiece, he fought the Festival Hall acoustic and won. It was almost as if he created his own acoustic.

Such was the depth and penetration of the string bass-led undulations in the opening bars that we began to experience an imagined resonance, the ear compensating for what it couldn't hear. That's Jurowski's skill; his performances are so intensely well-heard, so concentrated, that they demand your involvement. There is no such thing as passive listening.

Midway through Rachmaninov's symphonic poem, a melody high in the first violins clears the texture, lightens the senses, illuminates the way ahead. Jurowski made it a truly transforming moment, as though mindful of the paradise concealed beyond the rocky inclines and tall conifers of the Arnold Bocklin painting that inspired the composer. The ensuing climaxes were almost lustful in response.

And death was only another boat-ride away in the belated world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's When I Spoke - three discreet settings of poems by Dylan Thomas. The baritone Gerald Finley is a voice alone in the first stanza of "Vision and Prayer", the potency of the words and strange elliptical beauty of the vocal line needing no adornment. Only when we reach the penultimate line, "To the burn and turn of time/ And the heart print of man/ Bows no baptism" does Turnage's modest chamber orchestra feel compelled to endorse the soloist. That's the skill of these settings - they are responsive to, but never compete with, Thomas's imagery.

In the second poem, where the poet is awakened by the sounds of a new day, Turnage has the voice come to with drowsy humming, arresting yet reassuring. Those same phrases induce sleep at the close of the poem with the words, "And the coins on my eyelids sang like shells". How else do you follow an image that strong, but without words? Then two violas and two cellos suggest the poet reclining on open sea - "Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed" - while muted trumpets and pizzicato bass syncopations offer the merest hint of a Turnage "blues".

Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony contains sounds unlike anything else in his work; the stark, craggy, bassoon-led wind choruses of the first movement, for instance, where consolation is found in the unlikely voice of the bass clarinet.

Jurowski dug deep with these dark colorations, his strings weighing in heavily with the hero's main theme, his horns - bells raised - braying it defiantly in the coda. The whole reading had a distinctly Russian sensibility, in phrasing and articulation, too. The finale's bacchanal had everyone's blood pumping. It's all in the rhythm; never underestimate it.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea