Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 Holst
The Planets, Op.32
Sarah Chang (violin)
Ladies of the London Symphony Chorus London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis
LSO/Colin Davis - 27th June - The Planets
Thursday, June 27, 2002 Barbican Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Its quite an accolade to this music and these performers that the LSO is playing this programme three times in a city where two such similar evenings remain the exception. This second performance was well attended.
Sarah Chang seems to have been around a long time, yet is barely into her twenties. Brahmss concerto is a tough challenge its expressive scope and physicality in particular; some violinists feel that it is written against the instrument. Chang took it on but, at present, is punching above her weight. Her tone is honestly wiry, save the Vengerov-like throbbing that seems out of place. She has ideas too, welcome as such, yet little that convinces within a romanticised view that is further over-egged, even to seeming spurious.
Following the first movement, spacious and distending to sogginess, the Andante moderato was more an adagio effectively a second slow movement, one that spun to blandness. The Finale lacked fire and seemed more a technical exercise. Colin Davis offered a professional accompaniment, the LSOs strings full in numbers and lustre; no concessions were made to classical leanness, which is fair enough but not necessarily at one with the music.
Good to note that Sir Colin is continuing with antiphonal violins, cellos and basses to the right (first savoured when Davis conducted Bruckner in February); at this stage of his career, one is intrigued as to why he has now opted for this commensurate layout.
When the best of these Planets has been chosen, the resulting LSO LIVE CD should be among the best. Yet, in my opinion, this suite for large orchestra has been well and truly shafted in its 80-plus years it has spawned derivative film and concert scores, and then theres the hijacking, for nefarious purposes, signature tunes and the like, of the hymn at the heart of Jupiter.
Im not sure that Davis and the LSO rehabilitated this (for me) problem score, one so easy to schedule as a sure-fire hit. Not that there was anything easy about this performance, yet it still left a feeling of incompleteness. And I dont mean the lack of Colin Matthewss recent tailpiece, Pluto, which for the record (if not the CD) was not included good, perhaps, that this recent trend should be put on hold.
First-class playing if some odd balances, which Im inclined to suggest is peculiarities of the refurbished acoustic that are becoming more and more noticeable as the first anniversary becomes due. Really quiet playing is still a luxury and, here, details from the glockenspiel and xylophone were too dominant; I think though that the big tune of Jupiter was horn-dominated by design. Otherwise Mars could have been more crunching at a slower tempo, and if the off-stage ladies-chorus fade-away worked well (from behind the platform), this was a brightly-lit rendition that kept elusive whatever it is Im looking for in this music!