LSO / Gergiev, Barbican, London
Tuesday 18 October 2005
Valery Gergiev - soon to be the orchestra's chief conductor - breathed with this music, sometimes audibly, sometimes merely through the fluttering vibrato of his fingers. In the epic, war-torn Eighth Symphony - the dark heart of the Shostakovich canon - Gergiev created a sense of space and atmosphere and colour that dug deep into the subtext of the piece. Bass-lines were unfathomable; high-lying, piccolo-flecked violins were so taut as to be ready to snap in an instant.
This is music of unremitting intensity, music that almost never relaxes. It is the music of fear and sorrow, fear tangible here in the seismic eruptions of solo percussion, in the shudder of a triple-forte string tremolando evaporating in an instant to a barely audible shiver. At such moments it was possible not to believe one's own ears. And then there was the sorrow. Christine Pendrill's long, eloquent cor anglais solo seemed to shoulder it all in the closing pages of the first movement. Her quiet playing - indeed, that of all the woodwind principals - was astonishingly fine.
A sensational account of the Eighth Symphony, then, and if the temptation so early in the cycle was to say, "Follow that", Gergiev and the LSO did so the very next night with a no less riveting account of the other great war symphony, the Seventh, "Leningrad".
Decades of bad press have not blunted the impact of this amazing work. The dynamic and emotional range of this performance was colossal. But what really left a lasting impression were the shadowy recesses of the inner movements, music quite unlike anything else in Shostakovich. The trio of the scherzo - a mad Mahlerian waltz withering to disgruntled bass clarinet; the fractured wind chorale of the slow movement eventually torn from the strings to become something all too human, all too fallible.
It's a long road home to the final blaze of C major in this symphony, but Gergiev and the LSO really earned it for all of us. Stunning.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 4 Amy Winehouse unpublished 2004 interview: ‘Ten years from now I’ll be 30, so I’ll maybe have one baby’
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous film
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia