A seriously good selection of pieces began with brightly-lit ‘Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes, familiar fare for the LSO, as recently as February under Bernard Haitink. But each conductor brings their own ways. Gianandrea Noseda created rising-sun atmosphere and sea-spray in ‘Dawn’ in which ensemble was a little tentative, and vibrancy in ‘Sunday Morning’. ‘Moonlight’ glinted on the sea as sentiments surfaced from its depths and ‘Storm’ seemed more a threat from the Borough itself than the elements. (Something was lacking overall.)
After which Nikolai Lugansky made a notable debut with the LSO. Luxuriating and pulsating by turns, the first movement of the Prokofiev flew by, even emptier than usual but Lugansky’s fleet and flawless fingers were sensational, the LSO and Noseda with him all the way. The pianist was nicely laconic with the opening of the second movement and revelled in its twists and turns, gracefully, deftly and forcefully accompanied, the performers trying to outdo each other in the motoric onslaught – driving a Ferrari, mind – and so it continued into the finale, still hard on the accelerator until the slower if taciturn-cum-bombastic middle section and then a return to relentless rhythms. Make no mistake, if this music isn’t great, this performance of it was, magnetic music-making, Lugansky amazing.
After the interval, two contemporaneous masterpieces, Sinfonia da Requiem (1940, Peter Grimes not far behind date-wise) and Shostakovich 6 (1939) by composers who would become good friends. If the Interludes were not quite vintage LSO, this Britten certainly was, thrilling and moving, which pounded into life, the ‘Lacrymosa’ unleashing deep emotion, saxophone wailing, then the ‘Dies Irae’ was given with whiplash activity – the LSO giving a dazzling display of virtuosity laced with no mean passion and then meeting head-on the catharsis of the ‘Requiem aeternam’.
London has heard some standout Shostakovich 6s of late, not least this year from the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski (May) and the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit (the Proms). Further back, and with the LSO, Mark Elder’s conducting of it in June 2010 casts a very long shadow indeed. Noseda brought his own individual approach to it, a curiously strict slant with the lengthy opening Largo, but with no shortage of claustrophobia and chill, and in which Adam Walker’s flute-playing was mesmeric, then an unusually measured advance through the second-movement Allegro, which was no faster than this marking suggests, such deliberation bringing bite and obliqueness, the climax suitably explosive. The finale was fully Presto, with Rossinian bounce, but although Schumann could have a Faschingsschwank aus Wien, there were no ‘carnival jests in Leningrad’ at this time, this circus finale emerging here with mordant wit – also angular and forced, just right – and with leader Roman Simovic giving a soulful cameo during the lead-in to the last lap. As ever, Noseda gave his all, lived every note, and the LSO responded in kind.