LSO / Previn, Barbican, LONDON

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

André Previn's Hollywood past keeps catching up with him. Both composers in the latest instalment of his 75th birthday series had strong links to the movies. Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto is laden with themes lifted from celluloid; William Walton's First Symphony is not, though there are pages in the finale that might well have had Larry Olivier unleashing the dogs of war and crying God for Harry.

André Previn's Hollywood past keeps catching up with him. Both composers in the latest instalment of his 75th birthday series had strong links to the movies. Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto is laden with themes lifted from celluloid; William Walton's First Symphony is not, though there are pages in the finale that might well have had Larry Olivier unleashing the dogs of war and crying God for Harry.

It was Korngold's father Julius who suggested that the ardent main theme from the movie Another Dawn might serve as the basis for a concerto. Erich put it - without preamble - at the top of the piece. It's a dreamy hothouse of a theme, full of unresolved longing. From the way Anne-Sophie Mutter sidled into the concerto you just knew that she'd seen the movies, replayed the scenes, and understood the style.

By even her exalted standards, this was gorgeous playing. The swoop and swoon of it was right on the money, the tone sultry and seductive but never vulgar. The slow movement's song-melody - from Korngold's Oscar-winning score for Anthony Adverse (1936) - was a miracle of insinuation. Against the shimmer of vibraphone and glint of celeste, Mutter played with it like a seasoned jazzer. The romping rondo finale was a reality check on that, of course. It was as if ET had come over the horizon on his bicycle. Where would John Williams have been without Korngold?

And where would Walton's First be without Previn? His recording from 40 years ago has yet to be matched, let alone surpassed. The question was: would he still have the spark to reignite the furnace?

Yes and no. His grip on the piece is still firm, but for all the brilliance of the LSO's playing - and it was fabulous - the galvanic drive was lacking at times. The scherzo - "presto with malice" - was just too slow, though it still had all its teeth and the wherewithal to use them.

Still, the slow movement was plangent and beautiful, and there was something terribly moving about that moment in the finale where Maurice Murphy's first trumpet sounded a kind of last post. With it, Previn seemed to be laying claim to his rightful inheritance. He was home again.

Comments