LPO/Marin, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

A solid hour of Mozart himself made up the main course, mildly spiced with a little Stravinsky, and some Richard Strauss for dessert. The playing style was a throwback too, and not just in the sense that it was innocent of period features. Encouraged by Ion Marin, the late replacement as conductor for Ingo Metzmacher, the LPO developed a chamber-like intimacy that has almost disappeared from mainstream concerts.

If that's partly down to the smaller hall, London will be in for a year of riveting concerto performances. The currently ubiquitous Paul Lewis (piano) has built his formidable reputation not so much on piano showpieces as on the more thoughtful demands of Beethoven and Schubert. Mozart's most Beethoven-like concerto, his last in C major, has a mix of grandeur and tenderness that well suited Lewis. He even chose an astute cadenza by Alfred Brendel - so like early Beethoven that it could have passed as the real thing.

When he first plays, the pianist has chances to debunk the grandeur, but Lewis rather picked up on the orchestra's smoothness with melting phrases that still respected the music's steady-paced splendour. The woodwind came into their own in some radiant dialogues with the soloist.

The suite from Strauss's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, after a less polished start, was nearly as enjoyable for the musicians' relish of its colourful, ever-changing combinations of solo instruments. Marin, with impeccable timing and infectious rhythm, encouraged finesse and just the right amount of swagger.

It does, however, rather go on. Given its nicely splashy end, the concert would have been complete without Mozart's Symphony number 39 still to come. Strangely, the decision to minimise repeats made the symphony's performance less affectionate in the outer movements, and at its best in the respectively expansive and buoyant music between them. More revealing was the Stravinsky Concerto for Strings at the start of the concert. Blink and it could almost have been by Martinu.

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