The Guildhall Symphony Orchestra is comprised of students of the Guildhall School of Music. This concert was given to a well-behaved audience: no fidgeting, coughing or mobile-phones ringing. For those that might be considering a self-imposed exile from other London concert-halls to escape such intrusions, you could do far worse than come to LSO St Luke’s.
The Wagner showcased numerous players, such as oboist Louise Whipham who had wonderful tone and presence. Conducted by the affable Takuo Yuasa, and in the Hall’s confines, this was a loud performance that reached quite orgasmic and overwhelming proportions. Yuasa certainly went for the dramatic aspects, with daringly-extended pauses. The rest ebbed and flowed its way along, laced with mystery and foreboding. A lot characterisation came from timpanist Catherine Ring, who was never intrusive, though. The Isolde-less ‘Liebestod’ was on fire with the climaxes blossoming and quickening one’s heartbeat. The atmosphere would have been enhanced by a reduction in lighting.
Strauss’s early Burleske is infused with references to Brahms and Liszt (apologies for the rhyming slang!). A superb blend! Catherine Ring, once more, was superb; and one had the sense that this music was more suited to the orchestra than the Wagner – its youthful spirit, the players had a great time. Intermixed with the frequent soulful passages from the piano-soloist are orchestral sections of great tumult. Madalina Rusu contributed some sublime pianism, and was a real tug of war. A blistering account.
Brahms’s Second Symphony suffered from a lack of antiphonal violins; there were many occasions where the cellos obliterated the second violins. Nonetheless, the cellos were the foundation here. This was a broad account of the symphony and enhanced by taking the repeat of the first-movement exposition. Again, though, the limits of the hall provided a disservice to the music-making; clarity was eschewed for power and a more careful balance needed to be found, so that melodious moments from the woodwinds were not lost completely. The Adagio was warm, but needed reining in, though the Allegretto grazioso was witty enough. The final movement was as spirited as it possibly could be – sit back and enjoy the ride! Particular praise to horn-player Andrew Littlemore: splendid throughout, never dominating, but very secure.