LSO/Krivine, Barbican Hall, London
Jumping and driving energy
Thursday 13 February 2003
A small bundle of energy called Emmanuel Krivine bounced on to the London Symphony Orchestra's rostrum for the first time and gave the orchestra one of its most entertaining workouts all season. Krivine is experienced and confident enough to put Beethoven's Symphony No 7 at the start of a concert. He's also interesting enough to give it an extra-vivacious stamp of his own.
As with the symphony itself, first impressions of the conductor were deceptive. Despite a seemingly confusing conducting technique, the players clearly had no trouble in sussing him out as they played notably well together, even at the mystifying start of the quick music when Krivine either set off a bar early or was trying a strange acceleration that was ignored. Yet the energy of this famously relentless work was joyous and even relaxed, the playing full of dynamic contrast.
The second-half was Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. This uneasy tone poem is generally excused as a caricature of the heroic male, but it all too often sounds like a gung-ho celebration. Trouble comes with the love scenes, which are as directly erotic as in Strauss's other works, because it's hard to switch back into parody mode afterwards. Krivine began brisk, brilliant and unpompous and got the music to suggest an over-the-top cartoon hero, egocentric and petulant.
From then on, Krivine evidently decided the best thing was to have fun, play the sexy bits for all their worth and pile on the excess for the mock battles, done with exhilarating flair, complete with jumps into the air for the climaxes just as the late and equally diminutive Leonard Bernstein used to do, right until the music finally subsided into cosiness, and almost wholly sustaining disbelief in the music's sincerity. An enlivening event, then, rather than a profoundly moving one –just about right for the repertoire.
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