Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Philharmonia/Jordan @ Royal Festival Hall, London

28 October 2009

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre (Photo: India Roper-Evans)

The Philharmonia Orchestra continued its season with an exciting programme that contrasted Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven. Conductor Philippe Jordan and pianist Piotr Anderszewski, were the distinguished guests, but although there was much to enjoy about the concert, one felt that that it didn’t quite live up to its full potential.

The evening began with Strauss’ Don Juan tone poem, Op. 20, a riotous tale of a young libertine that juxtaposes a sense of wild excess with dark pools of introspection. As always with Strauss one feels that he is teetering on a fine line between taste and vulgarity, and Jordan was not afraid to revel in the spirit of abandon: the strings sounded seductive and the horns, well, horny. But while this boisterousness was certainly exhilarating, a little more contrast would have been preferable.

So impassioned was this piece that it seemed to rather scandalise the Mozart piano concerto that followed. Of course, Mozart himself was no stranger to the Don Juan theme but his Piano Concerto No.18 in B flat, K456, is a piece of such refinement and exquisite delicacy that one couldn’t help but blush. Anderszewski’s account, however, was for me the highlight of the evening his interpretation was both sensitive and technically impressive but, perhaps more importantly, it revealed seriousness and intellectual rigour behind the work’s decorative faade.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 enjoyed a hugely successful premiere in 1813, and is one of his most joyful symphonies, but in this performance it fell rather flat. Jordan’s podium style is lithe and athletic he was undoubtedly exciting to watch but his account offered little in the way of textural distinction in the opening movements, and instead of the desired sense of thrilling protraction, the finale simply sounded drawn-out. Perhaps that explains the rather luke-warm applause at its conclusion.

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