Opera + Classical Music Reviews

LPO/Jurowski @ Royal Festival Hall, London

4 May 2011

Although not mentioned in the programme, this appearance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra marked the 60th anniversary of the very first public concert in the Royal Festival Hall. It was also the first event to be transmitted on Radio 3 following the BBCs decision to resume live broadcasts on weekday evenings. A pity, then, that the musical results were so disappointing on this occasion.

The concert opened promisingly enough, with the Prelude to Act I of Wagners Die Meistersinger von Nrnberg. Vladimir Jurowski led a performance that was notable for its vigour and energy no middle-aged spread weighing down these Meistersingers and which culminated in a thrilling account of the cymbal-capped peroration.

Somehow the magic disappeared with the performance of Strausss Four Last Songs that followed. Christine Brewers high volume delivery was marked by a touch of steel and, despite a beautiful horn solo in September, the orchestral accompaniment lacked warmth, resulting in an interpretation that offered neither beauty of sound nor inner feeling.

Given the general excellence of Jurowskis Tchaikovsky during his time with the LPO, one might have expected a performance of the Fifth Symphony to be the highlight of the evening. Unfortunately this was not the case. Jurowskis interpretation benefited from spirited playing by the orchestra, with characterful woodwinds and refined strings. However, the orchestral balance was marred by overloud brass, aggravated by Jurowskis use of three trumpets and trombones instead of the two required by Tchaikovsky. Climaxes in the first two movements were uncomfortably bright, and the finale sounded more like a concerto for brass and orchestra than an orchestral movement.

Jurowskis generally fast pacing paid dividends in passages that are often taken too slowly, notably the start of the Andante cantabile, but brought a feeling of restlessness elsewhere, and the conclusion of the symphony was overly rushed. Superficially exciting perhaps, but totally unengaging.

Further details of Royal Festival Hall concerts can be found at southbankcentre.co.uk

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