LSO/Harding, Barbican, London

2.00

The London Symphony Orchestra's first Barbican concert of the new year was not a happy one.

The London Symphony Orchestra's first Barbican concert of the new year was not a happy one. Sometimes the need for a Society for the Protection of Orchestras from Conductors seems vital, especially from young ones, and especially, perhaps, from anyone hailed as "the leading British conductor of his generation". Daniel Harding, recently appointed principal guest conductor of the LSO, was in charge.

The programme comprised Schumann's Violin Concerto and Mahler's Fourth Symphony. The Schumann is an odd piece, written at the end of the composer's life, shortly before he tried to drown himself in the Rhine. He claimed that Schubert had appeared to him as a ghost and dictated the theme of the slow movement. Joachim, for whom it was written, refused to play the concerto, believing it to be damaged by Schumann's mental condition. But the piece is full of marvellous moments - in particular, the beginning of the slow movement. (It was too bad that the cellos and lower strings had no beat to follow.)

Gordan Nikolitch, the LSO's fabulous leader, was the soloist. Harding began too fast, failing to prepare musically for Nikolitch's first entry, so allowing no time for his opening chord to be heard. Nikolitch is a player of immense intensity and faultless musical intelligence. If only Harding had bothered to listen to him and indeed to match his soloist's approach. Why the huge, hacking gestures? But then, why let young conductors loose on works of such subtlety and complexity?

Mahler's Fourth fared even worse. Schumann's classical-sized orchestra was replaced by a huge number of players, as required by Mahler. The string layout was completely changed, presumably for musical reasons and to achieve the right balance. But right away those sleigh bells sounded uncertain - not because of placing but because of uncertainty of tempo.

And that was a feature of the entire performance. Orchestral players anticipate how and when they will play in relation to the beat of the conductor. But when the beat is all over the place, only trouble can ensue. And how it did! At the beginning of the slow movement, Harding's beat was so unclear that it was anybody's guess - alas the double basses - where to play the second note. And further on, the bassoon never came in, no doubt flummoxed.

Funniest was the huge climax, when Harding's mighty gesture was entirely ignored by the orchestra. Less funny was the point at the very end of the movement when the work virtually fell to pieces: Harding had given no beat. Lisa Milne sang sweetly and musically, something of a triumph in this troubled performance.

Harding displayed little understanding of the work or of what or whom he should be conducting at any point. He takes up his position as principal guest at the start of the 2006-07 season - just as well if a collective nervous breakdown is not to be inflicted on this great orchestra.

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices