"Episodic" was the verdict of one friend. "Restrained" was that of another. So why was I moved by Mariss Jansons's interpretation of Shostakovich's Symphony No 7 with the Royal Concertgebouw, when previously I have been repelled by this work?
This was the second Barbican performance of the Leningrad Symphony in the past three months - the first, which opened Valery Gergiev's Shostakovich Cycle, was given by the London Symphony Orchestra - and if you listen to any symphony several times in short succession, you will discover layers of colour you previously missed. Another factor is the impact of performing the Leningrad as a stand-alone programme. Then there is Jansons's style: a delicacy of such paradoxical toughness that it can withstand the loudest scoring and the crudest of effects.
Speculating on a conductor's vision is dangerous, yet it seemed to me that Jansons's Leningrad was seen through the eyes of a child. After a lithe account of the opening bars, the banal whistling of the piccolo became an artless playground melody, the inexorable advance of the snare drum too terrifying and foreign to be remotely glamourous. Notwithstanding recent speculation that Shostakovich may have have written this movement some months before the invasion itself, Janson's pictorial reading made the brutal final cadences a tragic and terrible assault on innocence.
There were some uncertain moments of ensemble - the pizzicato was untidy - but the bowing was virile and the woodwind, particularly Ronald Karten's bassoon, and brass pungent. Crucially, Jansons maintained concentration across all four movements; the third of which was shaded in rapt gold and indigo, the fourth blood red.
Although I remain unconvinced of the work's moral centre, that of this performance was undeniable. email@example.comReuse content