LPO / Masur, Royal Festival Hall, London
Wednesday 04 February 2004
On the face of it, this looked a standard classical programme of the kind the major London orchestras grind out season after season. Buttressed by the first symphonies of Beethoven and Shostakovich, it centred on a starry line-up of soloists in Beethoven's Triple Concerto, once something of a Cinderella among his concert works but critically revalued and regularly heard these days. The main question, therefore, had to be whether the performers found anything fresh in these familiar scores.
In Beethoven's Symphony No 1, the answer proved to be: not really. Opting for almost 50 strings in this Haydnesque music was hardly helpful to crisp articulation. Yet the London Philharmonic's principal conductor, Kurt Masur, set lively tempos and mugged the music's many quirky turns graphically enough.
If a curiously soggy undertow remained, this could only be because almost all his interpretative attention seemed to be directed towards the higher orchestral instruments, with the bass allowed to trudge along regardless. This was an odd dereliction in Beethoven, of all composers, whose very drive and bounce so often depend on active, well-defined bass lines.
Masur could hardly avoid focusing on the cellos and basses at the outset of the Triple Concerto in C for Violin, Cello and Piano, since they launch it alone. And the difference in clarity and liveliness was immediate - countering at a stroke the implication, in all too many performances, that the score only really comes to the boil in its finale. Whether the trio of eminent soloists were always at one with the relatively straightforward orchestral backing, or in their relations one to another, was another matter.
For some reason, this reading was dominated by Lynn Harrell's piping hot cello. Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose frowning, downcast demeanour so oddly belies her handsome presence, seemed to be playing her tremulous violin more to him than to the audience, while André Previn appeared content to amble loosely through the piano part in the background. There were passing felicities, of course, and a capacity Royal Festival Hall audience gave it all a tremendous reception because, after all, these players are, well, who they are.
But ultimately, it was the 19-year-old Shostakovich's precocious Symphony No 1 in F minor that manifestly engaged Masur most intensely. This was just as well, since the piece can easily seem to split between the edgy grotesquery of the first two movements and the heavier melodrama of its slow movement and finale. But, with a fierce intentness steadily accumulating from the start, the febrile climax of the finale seared the ear.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Justin Kelly interview: On James Franco playing a gay man who renounces his homosexuality
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'