Barbican Hall Celebration Concert

MacMillan
Stomp (with Fate and Elvira) [World premiere]
Mozart
Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K467
Tchaikovsky
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Mitsuko Uchida (piano)

Guildhall School Musicians

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis

Performed in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the 25th-anniversary of the Barbican Centre


Reviewed by: Mike Langhorne

Reviewed: 6 March, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Who would have thought given the early troubled days of the Barbican Centre that we would be celebrating its 25th Anniversary. It’s come through some fairly bruising experiences over this period but with the recent multi-million pound makeover it now resembles something like an arts centre. Gone are the spotted panels and the glass canopy over the entrance, themselves afterthoughts to make the place look something like inviting and not the commercial premises complete with ‘loading bay’ entrance the original design offered. Also improved are the concert hall’s acoustics, though nothing of course can remedy the fact that the hall is simply the wrong shape, lacks an organ and sufficient space to accommodate a large choir and orchestra.

However, enough of the griping, for the Queen was with us the celebrate the birthday, the London Symphony Orchestra is still there and there is much more to be cheerful about including the newly designed and positioned bars, box office and shops.

James MacMillan’s Stomp (specially written for the occasion) did indeed stomp through its five minutes with heavy galumphing brass (provided by excellent players from the Guildhall School) essaying some kind of drunken sea-shanty interspersed with curdled renditions of the ‘Fate’ motif from Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and the theme from the slow movement of this particular Mozart piano concerto (as used in Bo Widerberg’s film “Elvira Madigan”). A bit of fun that we can smile at and forget!

Mitsuko Uchida then arrived on the platform in a diaphanous yellow creation like some exotic butterfly and delivered a rendition of the Mozart concerto that was full of beautiful nuances. Her skill is in the ability to combine fantasy with purpose and here serenity and forward motion were present to enchant and surprise; and given with the splendid support of Davis and the LSO.

Tchaikovsky is not a composer particularly associated with Colin Davis. His is an objective viewpoint of the composer – no Gergiev-like fluttering fingers and extremes of emotion for him. In the outer movements rhythms were tight and the playing hard-edged. The central movements seemed of less interest to him; indeed he gave up conducting the scherzo for much of the time (although he’s not the first conductor to do this and this movement does invite a nod and a wink!). Then the finale crashed in and sped to its easily won climax with fire and determination. Sir Colin’s view of Tchaikovsky is very like himself – reserved and well-mannered but also aware of dramatic possibilities.



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