The law of diminishing returns
MUSIC LPO / Zubin Mehta RFH, London
Wednesday 01 March 1995
Mehta then went on to conduct a structurally sound performance of Berg's Violin Concerto where Pinchas Zukerman's echt-Viennese handling of the first movement's lndler sections offset the occasionaltonal abrasiveness. It was a worthy account of the score, sweet, even a little cloying, but hardly the meeting of minds one needs in this work.
Elgar's First Symphony, however, was something of a revelation. Mehta chose a controversially broad tempo for the first movement, with dark, expressively weighted phrasing that suggested symphonic logic rather than dramatic inevitability. The Scherzo had real swagger; the Lento, a Brahmsian glow; and, if the finale took time to ignite, its final pages fair leapt from the stage. Mehta himself retained relative physical composure, leaning rather than leaping; whereas, on Sunday, he all but swam the Rhine for a plush and rhetorically distended Gtterdmmerung suite.
The soprano Jane Eaglen was indisposed, but vocal compensation arrived courtesy of Bryn Terfel, whose grainy bass-baritone and interpretative intelligence suggested fatherly compassion in Mahler's disquieting Kindertotenlieder. Mehta and the LPO provided a warmly accommodating accompaniment, making chamber music where othersoverstate the case. Still, the last song's bluster and regret were more than enough for some.
Come the Webern, and a faint-hearted minority left. Had they stayed, the LPO's advocacy might have changed them for ever. First, Webern's Op 1, his Passacaglia, revisited virtually everything worth hearing in fin de sicle musical Germany, raging with all the heat of Valhalla but tempered by impressive instrumental economy. Then came the Six Pieces, Op 6 - eerie, furtive, inwardly dramatic music and with a central Marcia funebre that initially whispered among quiet gongs, then tensed for what proved the evening's most terrifying crescendo. A veil of silence surrounded the final Langsam, then - beyond some grateful applause - the orchestra retired and the stage was re-set for Webern's "difficult" Concerto for nine instruments, Op 24.
Back on stage, Mehta edged over to a microphone. "I'm glad there are more than nine people in the audience!" he laughed, before going on to explain the tapering process from Wagner to Webern, to illustrate the music's "tone rows" and to provide some useful pointers for the uninitiated. And, yes, the exegesis worked: Webern's Concerto not only sounded meaningful, it was actually cheered. Could even Bernstein have achieved more? Or, to quote one audience member, "Versatile guy, this Mehta. First he gave us The Three Tenors, now it's The Three Tone Rows!"
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people