Notwithstanding acoustics that sniff haughtily and turn away in a huff whenever the dynamic rises above mezzo forte, there is something to be said for the intimacy of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Furthermore, as the LPO proved on Wedsnesday night, its new residents are quickly learning to accomodate its indiosyncracies.
With reduced strings, careful phrasing, and judicious distancing of the brass, Dvorak's Cello Concerto proved ideal for the smaller hall. Pieter Wispelway's solo was grainy, athletic, elegantly argued, pristine in its tuning, and pleasingly interrogative of his accompaniment. But, gosh, it is better keep one's eyes closed while he plays. Last time I saw expressions like those on Wispelway's face was on Discovery Health's Maternity Ward. Conductor Vassily Sinaisky, who would have been forgiven for leaving the podium and pacing up and down with a cigar, was by contrast a model of serenity.
By happy accident or percipient planning, Glinka's Capriccio brillante and Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony highlighted the section least favoured by these acoustics: the woodwind. The voluptuous vibrato of flautist Susan Thomas was a little rich for my taste, but her expressivity and focus, along with that of oboist Ian Hardwick, clarinettist Robert Hill, and bassoonist Simon Estell, was indefatigable.
With smart, direct playing from the trumpets, a suave sound from the trombones and horns, and some exceptionally tight and cultured work from the LPO's excellent strings, this was a very impressive performance; beautifully shaped and galvanised by Sinaisky.