Opera + Classical Music Reviews


10 April 2010

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre (Photo: India Roper-Evans)

This exciting and eclectic programme proved yet again that with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium, the players of the LPO never fail to deliver.Violinist Lisa Batiashvili was on spellbinding form in Prokofievs Violin Concerto 1 in D, making this an evening to savour.Rarely has Beethovens jubilant Symphony 7 in A been giving as rip-roaring and viscerally thrilling performance as it was here.

This wonderfully devised and executed concert began in restrained mood with a poised and elegant account of Handels Music for the Royal Fireworks. Its always a bit of a risky business performing Baroque works with modern instruments, and inevitably compromises have to be made, but Nézet-Séguin and the pared down sections of the LPO convinced with their Baroque credentials. Vibrato was kept to a minimum in the strings, and both trumpets and horns were suitably clarion in their outbursts. Nézet-Séguin paced the work well and unerringly captured the celebratory nature of the piece

Prokofievs Violin Concerto 1 in D is a work full of intense lyrical beauty, and came as a surprise given the abrasive nature of a lot of his work. Few violinists have as secure a technique as Lisa Batiashvili, yet it was the warmth of her playing that made the biggest impression. True, the technical demands of the Scherzo held no terrors for her, and her agility in this movement was truly breathtaking, but it was her glowing account of the lyrical passages that will linger long in the memory.

After the interval we were given the luxury (considering the size of the orchestra required for a mere four-minute work) of Stravinskys Fireworks. The orchestra gave a suitably coruscating performance of this brilliantly scored work, and it was illuminating to hear it in the context of the rest of the evening.

Despite the excellence of everything that had preceded it, Nézet-Séguin had saved the best til last as he and the players delivered a reading of Beethovens Symphony 7 in A so thrilling in its execution that it quite simply took the breath away. Again, period-performance credentials were to the fore and although it may be unfair to compare, this performance quite simply knocked spots off the previous evenings Beethoven concert by the OAE. I dont think Ive ever heard such meticulous or exuberant playing in this work and as all of Nézet-Séguins tempi were spot-on the final movement was edge of the seat stuff, and although some commentators have said that it was way too fast, it wasnt. This was as thrilling a performance as Carlos Kleibers on disc, and no praise is higher than that.

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