It should have been André Previn conducting this London Symphony Orchestra concert, one including his own Cello Concerto, but he withdrew and the soloist (originally Daniel Müller-Schott) and the programme changed.
Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin as well as being a testimony to four friends killed in the Great War is a tribute to French music of the past. Dance-forms predominate and Ravel’s commemoration is frequently lyrical and delicate. This is touching music of polish and sophistication and Pablo Heras-Casado and the LSO were in fine form, particularly the woodwind soloists. The ‘Prélude’ received rapid and accurate articulation from oboist Olivier Stankiewicz and he was tender and graceful in the ‘Menuet’. Heras-Casado ensured the ‘Forlane’ had springiness of rhythm and the ‘Rigaudon’ was maintained at a quick pace and properly perky.
Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto is a dark, enigmatic piece with emotion close to the surface and with music of great sadness. It is a product of the period immediately before his mental breakdown and his last-finished composition, suppressed by his widow Clara and by violinist Joachim. Renaud Capuçon gave a well-structured and sweet-toned reading. The first movement with its powerful opening subject was given symphonic weight from the LSO, Capuçon playing with passion without inflating his sound. In the slow movement he was full of feeling and eloquent asides, with cellos rich but sensitive. The polonaise-style Finale was delivered with a touch of fantasy and caught Schumann’s many light gestures. This reading made a persuasive case for a problematic work.
Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony contains many influences from the composer’s Slavic heritage. It is stocked with melody and radiates a generosity of feeling allied to a keen musical discipline. Under Heras-Casado the opening cello theme had eloquence and he maintained momentum throughout the movement, melodies running at full tide; woodwind solos, particularly from flute, were beguiling and the brass was not over-dominant. The slow movement was relaxed with refulgent strings and intimate woodwinds, and there was grace and gentleness in the third-movement waltz and its Trio, but a sense of pathos was missing. The Finale’s trumpet summons was striking but the playing later spilled-over into raucousness rather than high spirits, Heras-Casado offering a vivid reading of attractive detail and flamboyance that missed the innocent radiance of Dvořák’s inspiration.