Isabelle van Keulen suggested through her body language during the concertos orchestral exposition a rather more varied and dimensional account than she actually delivered. Conductor and soloist were well matched in this charmless rendition. Her steely, penetrative tone, if not her unkempt technique, may have matched the solo parts brilliance, but not its subtlety or lyricism the Andante cantabile went for nothing; the Finale, with its lack of courtly manners and unconvincing, mannered pauses, was graceless.
Although Yakov Kreizberg had all this music in his head the whole concert conducted from memory and he was alive to each scores surface, his rhythmic rigidity and lack of variegation failed the far reaches of Mahler Five. This was a hard-driven reading, which may have whipped up a storm but did so too often and with little change across the movements. Climaxes were crude and brass-dominated; the hard-working strings often swamped. When still-centres were found the cello-led recitative in the second movement for example such interludes seemed contrived and attention seeking; this was an inorganic Mahler 5.
Of note was Kreizbergs swift and probably ideal tempo for the Adagietto. At just under nine minutes, this has the imprimatur of Mengelberg, Mahlers friend and early interpreter; yet convincing as this was as an intimate love letter, and beautifully played by the strings, Kreizberg again indulged in phrasal distension, which rather lost the movement its shape. Kreizberg drove through the initial serenade-charm of the Scherzo losing the movement the impact of its mood-swings if not head-butting sonorities. The Finale, short on imagery and wit, drove to its conclusion joylessly a wearying rather than uplifting traversal.
Swift Mahler is fine, but you need the rhythmic pliancy of a Rafael Kubelik; and Kreizberg has little of the contrapuntal translucency of Mikko Franck, or an ear for the musics rusticity such as Ingo Metzmacher. When it comes to aggressive, first-past-the-post Mahler, Kreizberg doesnt get my vote; and it takes a lot to strip the Philharmonia of its culture and warmth in a single evening. If the playing was terrific all the principals, not least Alistair Mackies opening trumpet solo, first-class it was set in a jarring ambience.
- This Thursday, 21 March, Yakov Kreizberg conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in Shostakovichs Fifth Symphony and, with Michael Collins, Beethovens Violin Concerto transcribed for clarinet by Mikhail Pletnev
- RFH Box Office: 020 7960 4201 www.rfh.org.uk
- Stop Press - change of programme: Michael Collins now plays Mozarts Clarinet Concerto; the concert begins with the overture to The Marriage of Figaro.