The Frenchman Lionel Bringuier has already made his mark in the UK in guest appearances with the BBCSO and the Philharmonia, and this concert was his debut with the LSO, replacing Robin Ticciati, who is being treated for a back injury. Bringuier has been in the news recently, when his contract with the Tonhalle Zurich (where he has been in charge since 2012) was not renewed, but that is likely to be Zurich’s loss rather than Bringuier’s.
I had expected the main interest would lie in the French second half of his somewhat changed programme (no opening Fauré), but there was a special quality he and the LSO delivered in Brahms’s Violin Concerto, which provided an ideal foil for Alina Ibragimova at her most searching and soul-bearing. Even with the orchestra at its most monumental, as in the first movement, Ibragimova’s insistent inwardness bloomed. Her quietest playing comes with an almost tangible fullness, she is a phrase-squeezer of impeccable judgement and in a league of her own in her control of colour and dynamics – and, when the virtuoso gloves come off, she is thrilling. But it is the imagination and mercurial responsiveness that marks out this exceptional artist. Her fragmentation of the line in the Adagio ushered in the essence of German romanticism, of Brahms at his most private, and Bringuier and the LSO complemented this world of shadows with great tact.
Bringuier was also very good at dovetailing and balancing, aspects that were even more to the fore in Henri Dutilleux’s Métaboles. Dutilleux is an isolated figure in modern music – as self-critical as his contemporary Pierre Boulez (who spurned Dutilleux for not toeing his purist party line), much in thrall to Ravel and Debussy and associated with Messiaen’s soundworld, and with an ear acute enough for the spectralist composers underpinned by an approach to form that is Proustian in its subtle manipulation of memory and anticipation. Métaboles is a fifteen-minute concerto for orchestra (written for Szell and his Clevelanders) , the first four sections handing over material for further exploration as the piece unfolds, culminating in the justly titled ‘Flamboyant’ final movement where the full force of the orchestra is briefly let loose. The LSO is completely at home with the work (having played it with Simon Rattle), and delivered Dutilleux’s meticulous instrumentation in all its fastidiousness for Bringuier, whose craftsmanship revealed him as much a fan of Dutilleux as Rattle, with an ear tuned into matters of scale and balance as it is to the music’s unique sense of mystery and withdrawal.
Adam Walker’s flute solo in the ‘Pantomime’ from Daphnis et Chloé was another highlight (Ticciati planned the whole score), catching the heat and eroticism of Ravel’s classical fantasy. The LSO caught every nuance of its opulent orchestration, with Bringuier presiding over a miraculous clarity and separation of texture. I was more aware of his technical facility than the music’s orgiastic abandon in the concluding ‘Danse générale’, but the opening ‘Lever du jour’ was a sensual tour de force.