The sense of disappointment at Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s non-appearance on the podium for this eagerly-anticipated evening of Mozart and Mahler was palpable. Struck down with gastric flu, the LPO’s hugely admired principal guest conductor was forced to withdraw, so soloist Lisa Batiashvilli steeped up to the plate and directed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major herself whilst conductor Matthew Coorey took charge of Mahler’s mighty Symphony No. 9 in D major.
Usually these days Mahler’s 9th is performed on its own, and despite some spirited playing from Batiashvilli and a trimmed-down LPO, the Mozart seemed like unnecessary padding. The Georgian violinist however played and directed faultlessly, setting a cracking tempo for the first movement, which was followed by a mellow and achingly beautiful account of the Adagio. She rounded off the performance with a technically flawless third movement, and was rewarded with secure and confident support from the orchestra.
It can’t have been easy for conductor Matthew Coorey to take over the reins from Nézet-Séguin at such short notice. The orchestra has a special rapport with its principal guest conductor, having produced many wonderful performances over the last few years, so Coorey had his work cut out for him. It’s probably stating the obvious but there seemed to be little rapport between players and conductor. The latter not surprisingly had his nose buried in the score, as did many of the players but it’s testament to the members of the LPO that the performance was always ‘correct’, if hardly inspiring.
The brass were often too loud, although as always Paul Beniston’s trumpet playing was exemplary, and often the work was allowed to meander, particularly in the first movement. It was all too episodic, there was little sense of an understanding of the symphony as one whole span, and the sum of its parts just didn’t add up. Occasionally there were moments of brilliance, especially in the third movement, it’s just a shame there weren’t more of them. At times, trying to concentrate on the music was made impossible by the appalling behaviour of the audience. Not only intent on clapping between movements in the Mahler, many also seemed to believe it is acceptable to cough, sneeze and unwrap sweets as loudly as possible, and always in the most inappropriate places. The ethereal closing movements of the Symphony were ruined by one particularly insensitive person. Attending live concerts these days is becoming more and more tiresome, due to the behaviour of an ignorant few.