LSO/Gardiner, Barbican, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Sparks were struck in unexpected ways as a concerto by Bartok gave a thoughtful, central European context to familiar Schubert. Not least was the way the pairing worked the other way around. The last of Bartok's piano concertos, No 3, is his most lyrical and Classical in spirit, and when Piotr Anderszewski found a timeless serenity in its slow movement, the air of soon-to-be-ruffled innocence felt as Schubertian as anything in the earlier composer's music, at least as played on the night.

One of the achievements of this performance was to make a concerto that often sounds knowing come up fresh and vivid. The first piano entry had a character of folk song about it; the close exchanges with woodwind later on were the essence of mutual listening. This quality of interplay with orchestral soloists came up again and again, though closely as the LSO accompanied, Anderszewski's magical rightness about phrasing and sense of heightened awareness were in a league of their own. Counterpoint between the hands had a Bach-like beauty with no hint of dry calculation, and towards the end the music took on a huge rhythmic lift and surge while giving full weight to the concerto's one passage of real menace.

The knowingness had incongruously shifted to Schubert's Rosamunde overture. It opened the concert with underweighted attempts at sudden withdrawals of tone, and a stilted flow of melody. Sir John Eliot Gardiner's conducting was too interventionist right through the overture's introduction, and only when the pace stepped up was he at his buoyant best.

Rewriting the rulebook worked better in the Symphony No 9. Strikingly, it was the "authentic" rule book: an old-fashioned acceleration took the opening up to full speed, vibrant tone was alternately used and taken away with positively post-modern sophistication, and the strings were constantly held back to let the woodwind be heard.

The mood was genial and at times urgent: the Andante became a country walk that ends up in a war zone and runs away chastened, rather than a pre-Tchaikovskian soul baring and collapse. A Beethoven-like momentum drove the Scherzo and Finale.

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