Want to know what it is like, being conducted by Vladimir Jurowski? The experience was there for the taking, before his concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, when he organised a run-through of songs of the French Revolution. The response was enthusiastic to stirring hymns by Méhul and Rouget de Lisle, accompanied by drum and keyboard, though as an exercise in participatory nostalgia, it had as much political zeal as a singalong Sound of Music.
On Jurowski, we learnt more about skills than personality. He used a notably independent left hand to signal sustained notes and cut-offs, while the right occupied itself with decisive pacing. He articulated rhythms firmly and kept everybody together as he slowed into the end of "La Marseillaise". Otherwise, not much given away, especially since he left the business of rehearsing us to the two solo singers, Carys Lane and Giles Underwood, and just took the run-throughs himself (very Ancien Régime, that).
As for the concert, the last of the OAE's series about changing tastes in French audiences, the Revolution theme continued with a first half of official state commissions, and then Beethoven's Eroica, the symphony supposedly inspired by Napoleon. Apparently inspired, too, by Giovanni Paisiello's funeral march for the death of General Hoche, which began and ended with music like a foretaste of the equivalent passages in the Eroica's funeral march.
The double violin concerto on patriotic songs by Jean-Baptiste "Citoyen" Davaux was witty enough to be a spoof, though the piece has been recorded in the past. Phrases from familiar tunes link up in unexpected ways, with the soloists either imitating each other in virtuoso decoration or harmonising simply, and the slow movement came up with a strong melody that nobody seemed to know. The fun wore thinner when Davaux insisted on retelling his jokes, but the "Marseillaise" movement might well get a cult following, and the violinists - London Philharmonic leader Boris Garlitsky and, in a confident and London debut, his son Daniel - threw it all off with panache.
The Eroica was at its best when most vivid, in the tumultuous, rhythmically driven scherzo (superbly deft horns) and finale. Elsewhere, Jurowski built his crescendos well, from the incisive bass-line up, but the opening movements felt undercooked, the music fast and furious or just ticking over unless it was heading for one of the big moments.Reuse content