Oslo Po/Jansons | Barbican, London

Striking a workable balance in the performance of Brahms symphonies is no easy matter, and on Saturday night at the Barbican, Mariss Jansons came closer than most to solving a whole host of interpretative problems. Sonority is an essential prerequisite, especially in the First Symphony's opening pages, where basses, bassoons and horns - all forte - approximate the sound of an organ pedal. The Oslo Philharmonic gave a handsome account of itself, with plenty of pressure from the strings, powerful brass and an unfaltering timpani pulse. The switch to allegro brought marked surges in the string line, powerful pizzicatos and a handful of added dynamics. Jansons' strategy omitted the first-movement repeat but included a subtly worked build-up to the movement's stormy centre, where sensitive phrasing proved preferable to the usual option of broadening the pace.

The Andante sostenuto slow movement was remarkable for its sense of line and expressive generosity. Again, the string choirs excelled and a feeling of urgency kept the arguments focused. In the third movement, Jansons made a beeline for the dramatic central section, building a breathless crescendo that made renewed sense of the climactic reminder of the symphony's opening. My only reservations concerned the Finale, especially near the beginning, where the string players are asked to accelerate their pizzicatos "little by little" and Jansons pushed a tad too hard. A little later, Brahms summons the spectre of Beethoven Nine with one of his noblest melodies and, once into the fray, Jansons took animato as a cue virtually to double the tempo.

Interesting ideas, and effective enough to draw an enthusiastic response from the audience. Then a pair of contrasted encores: the delicate "Haydn" Serenade (really by Hoffstetter) and a wildly accelerating "Farandole" from Bizet's L'Arlésienne. Before Brahms, the soprano Barbara Bonney tailed a sequence of Grieg songs with Skogen Sofver (The Forest Sleeps) by Hugo Alfvén, a great favourite of the Swedish tenor Jussi Bjoerling.

Bonney's Grieg "quintet" - "Solveig's Song", "Cradle Song", "From Monte Pincio", "A Swan" and "Spring" - was at once loveable and lived in, a bewitching trail of dreams acted out with total commitment and ravishing soft tones. Jansons' accompaniments were models of discernment, always at the service of the singer. Quite why he chose to open the concert with a half-hour pot pourri of themes from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten is anyone's guess - save for the obvious value of showcasing his Oslo orchestra in all its glory. Still, the Brahms in particular was memorable, and if you missed the concert and need confirmation of Jansons' Brahmsian credentials, buy his terrific Olso Philharmonic recording of the Second and Third Symphonies, on Simax. Let's hope the First and Fourth Symphonies follow ere long.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all