Symphonie Concertante Symphony No.5 Beethoven
Concerto in C for piano, violin, cello and orchestra, Op.56 Stravinsky
The Rite of Spring
Stephen Hough (piano)
Leonidas Kavakos (violin)
Steven Isserlis (cello)
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ingo Metzmacher
LSO Concert - 19th December
Wednesday, December 19, 2001 Barbican Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
No one has done more for Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-63) than Ingo Metzmacher. It was entirely characteristic of him to make his LSO debut with a Hartmann symphony. Anyone unfamiliar with Hartmanns symphonic oeuvre, going on to explore it through his Fifth, is in for a surprise this neo-classical, concise piece is not typical.
Playing for 17 minutes or so, scored for six cellos, four double basses, pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and trombones with piccolo, contra-bassoon and tuba, the concerto aspect originates in one for winds, double basses and two solo trumpets that Hartmann wrote in 1933 and revised in 1949; the Fifth Symphony the outcome.
Stravinskian in rhythmic guile, Hartmanns harmonic language and textural heaviness looks to Hindemith, the Hindemith of the twenties in its pugnacious character. There isnt though the frivolity or decadence that Hindemith associated with then; Hartmann is more severe and personal. Although elements of burlesque are intimated, the symphonys heart is the slow movements transformation of the opening bassoon melody of Stravinskys Rite, the basis for introspective expression and a perfect foil for the outer movements pithy motifs and density. LSO soloists gave a very confident account under the scrupulous Metzmacher.
The Rite itself has suffered showpiece and ill-considered renditions in the last couple of years shambolic Gergiev (RFH, 2000), high-tech Tilson Thomas (Proms 2000) or inconsistent Salonen (RFH, 2001 click here to read the review). Metzmachers no display values were of constant dividend as he produced a Rite that, a few miscalculations aside, restored the work its precision, dance and sense of theatre. With the exception of Glorification of the Chosen One, which spurted off and unsettled the whole, and an ensemble tangle as Dance of the Earth closed, this was a reading that concentrated on the music, Stravinskys celebration of nature, ritual, rhythm and his extension of notational boundaries. Occasionally there was too much timpani, bass drum and gong detail carries so well in the Barbican now that its easy to overdo things and, another consequence of the acoustic, the Introduction and Mystic Circles that open Part 2 were never quiet or atmospheric enough; muted trumpets lacking the hypnotic distance of Salonen.
Beethovens concerto isnt a great piece but I have affection for it, which waned here. Metzmachers buoyant and eager introduction was greeted by a mellifluous, somewhat effete Isserlis, a rather edgy Kavakos (replacing Pamela Frank) neither string player quite agreeing on pitch and an urbane Hough. Lack of variety emphasised the first movements note-spinning, which was compensated by the seconds hush and lyrical import, and a spirited, deft finale.
Hopefully, the LSO will invite Ingo Metzmacher back his wide sympathies and musicianship are always welcome.
This concert is repeated on 20th December, at 7.30