The first half of this absorbing programme by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under its dynamic young principal conductor designate Vladimir Jurowski juxtaposed two sides of 18th-century classicism: Haydn at his most fiercely austere and Mozart at his most luxuriantly decorative.
Haydn's "storm and stress" symphonies written around his 40th birthday comprise a special phase in his writing - bare, driven, rule-breaking. Originally, the Symphony No 49 in F minor "La Passione" would have been given by an orchestra of as few as 15 players, directed from the first violin or keyboard. It was anachronistic of Jurowski to conduct with romantic exaggeration while retaining a clanking harpsichord continuo. That said, the stark, agitated spirit of the music certainly made its effect.
After which, Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for violin and viola, K 364, with its soloists echoing one another's phrases as in some operatic scena, could not have sounded more opulent. On this occasion, even the physical contrast of the performers - the violinist Baiba Skride and the violist Isabelle van Keulen - seemed to enhance the expressive interplay. As they wove through the elaborate subdivisions, the LPO strings could hardly forbear smiles or frowns of complicity at the comedy and pathos of it all.
The platform was fuller for the second half - too full, perhaps, for really quiet playing in a hall of such modest size. One has certainly heard more elegantly articulated accounts of the first and third movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 1 in G minor, Op 13, "Winter Daydreams". Still, it was a good choice, for Tchaikovsky never contrived a happier fusion of his subjective and nationalistic tendencies with his nostalgia for the clarities of the classical past, than in its first three movements.
Jurowski was especially successful in building tension through the quasi-variation structure of the slow movement to its thrilling melodic climax for unison horns. And the finale, which can sometimes seem to lapse into fugal fustian and bombast, has rarely sounded more convincing; its imperial, hymn-like final pages coming over with a genuine, crowning grandeur.Reuse content