Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish) Haydn
Symphony No.97 in C Stravinsky
The Firebird Suite (1919)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic/Jansons 16 September
Monday, September 16, 2002 Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
In the first of two concerts, the VPO played with bloom and exactness for Jansons. It took until the first encore, Dvoøáks penultimate Slavonic Dance (Op.72/7), to realise that Jansons views music in paragraphs. Fleet and detailed it might have been, but it didnt develop.
Ironically, it was the development sections of Haydns symphony that took wing. Elsewhere, Jansonss emphasis flattened Haydns song and dance. Despite the VPOs instincts for Haydns small print, Jansonss soft-grained, polite approach stifled Haydns brio in courtly gestures.
As in two previous London attempts (both with Lorin Maazel) at the second of Stravinskys three Firebird abstractions, the VPO has a slightly shy way with some rhythms and effects. Jansonss colour-palette was translucently sounded and carefully graded, yet slow sections seemed static and undelved and faster ones tame; King Kaschei was more miffed than infernal, the addition of a tubular bell here presumably another example of Jansons touching-up a score. Splendid horn solo near the close and Jansons gave the brass time to sustain its bell-like notes.
The concert started with an acoustic experiment that failed, to be successful after the interval all part of the slowly-evolving RFH refurbishment: not that much needs doing to the truthfully faithful auditorium, as the beguiling sounds of the VPO showed. The Doctor Who-like test-frequencies invoked both Schoenberg and Glass twelve tones and minimalist and drew applause.
Memory is a powerful force in listening. Celibidaches way with The Death of Tybalt from Prokofievs Romeo and Juliet, the second encore, showed Jansons as lively enough, the stabbing episode imaginatively real, though with a lack of sinew; an expensive encore too as it needed a sax player for just a few tutti bars.
A shadow for the Mendelssohn too Sawallisch and the Philharmonia, in this hall a couple of years back, transparent and buoyant, the music seen whole. Jansonss first movement compelled as dark and craggy depiction was unfolded and perfectly timed into an exuberant Scherzo. Coughs dictated Jansonss launching of the Adagio, radiant and militaristic by turns with lovely string, oboe and clarinet playing, yet the war-like last Finale couldnt go beyond the conductors control and seemed empty, the joyous coda too easy.
Tonight, 17th, Christian Thielemann conducts a mostly Richard Strauss programme.