LSO / Lorin Maazel, Barbican London

Since his first emergence as a prodigy back in the 1950s, Lorin Maazel has established himself as a somewhat uncanny necromancer among conductors, while invariably delivering performances of glittering technical proficiency and vividness. Whether these have always transcended a certain narcissistic coldness is another matter. One would not, in any case, have readily associated him with the warmth and inwardness of Schubert and Bruckner.

Since his first emergence as a prodigy back in the 1950s, Lorin Maazel has established himself as a somewhat uncanny necromancer among conductors, while invariably delivering performances of glittering technical proficiency and vividness. Whether these have always transcended a certain narcissistic coldness is another matter. One would not, in any case, have readily associated him with the warmth and inwardness of Schubert and Bruckner.

Yet here he was conducting both, in what was to have been the opening of a complete symphonic cycle of these two composers with the London Symphony Orchestra, had the task of completing his opera of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four for Covent Garden not become more urgent. For better or worse, however, this single concert gave a pretty unequivocal indication of what Maazel's approach to the whole series would have been.

As the LSO at full strength crammed itself on to the Barbican stage, it was already evident that Schubert's Symphony No 8 in B minor, the "Unfinished", was going to be massive. And so the first movement proved: darkly sonorous, at times grindingly slow, and of vast, dynamic range - more Wagnerian than anything Schubert can have imagined, though this astonishingly forward-looking music can take it. As if in recompense, Maazel launched the ineffable Andante at an almost insouciant moderato march tempo, only to allow it to linger more as the movement lengthened.

But it was in Bruckner's Symphony No 8 in C minor that Maazel's tendency to demarcate each thematic group, sometimes every musical gesture, with an emphatic upbeat and a rounding-off rallentando proved a liability. There is, of course, a weighty tradition of approaching Bruckner in this way - think of Jochum and Von Karajan - but it must never wholly lose its sense of a forward-moving pulse. Indeed, under the alternative no-nonsense tradition of such conductors as Van Beinum and Haitink, the Eighth can emerge as a taut, directional structure.

Maazel's opening movement, though slowish and not without pullings-about, was impressive enough. The galumphing scherzo seemed to interest him less, moderately paced yet failing to dance. But it was the slow movement that proved the real casualty, with the dynamics ever more insistent, the tempos ever more halting as Bruckner reconnoitres his various routes to the summit. The climax itself, with every note of its decorative five-point turn hammered out like a pile-driver, was grotesquely over the top.

After this, not even the most brilliant projection of the mosaic finale's teeming subsections could rescue the conception. One says this with regret, for rarely have the LSO strings sounded more wondrously weighty, or its brass more radiantly heroic, and, conducting from memory with commanding clarity, Maazel was absolutely on top of the music. It was just that he seemed so rarely inside it.

To be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 22 December

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy