London Philharmonic/Jukka-Pekka Saraste with Maria João Pires, Augustin Dumay & Antonio Meneses – Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky

Lohengrin – Prelude to Act I
Concerto in C for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op.56
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64

Maria João Pires (piano), Augustin Dumay (violin) & Antonio Meneses (cello)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste

Reviewed by: Alan Sanders

Reviewed: 24 October, 2014
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Photograph: Felix BroedeIn February of this year Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was played at a BBC Symphony Orchestra concert in the Barbican Hall. The cellist then was the same as in this LPO presentation. I wrote in my review: “…if I single out the cellist it is because Beethoven frequently takes the player up to high positions on the A string, and Meneses met all the composer’s demands in this elevated register with immaculate intonation and tonal strength.” The same qualities were also evident on this occasion, and it was a great pleasure to hear Antonio Meneses’s aristocratic, warmly communicative playing again. He was very well matched by Maria João Pires, whose restrained but poetic and elegant playing was also on a high level. Augustin Dumay seemed a little more detached in his approach; although his execution was technically immaculate, there was a slightly dry quality in his manner, an impression possibly enhanced by a less that ingratiating tone quality. Jukka-Pekka Saraste provided unostentatious but on-the-spot support. It was an enjoyable performance, though a certain coolness prevailed.

Saraste had commenced proceedings with a decent reading of the Lohengrin Prelude, a little tentative at first if gaining in strength, but rather lacking in atmosphere and depth of expression. Similar qualities informed the Tchaikovsky. Saraste conducted the opening paragraphs in a fresh, straightforward fashion, and allowed a little more freedom of expression as the first movement developed. His conducting was sensitive, sympathetic and admirably clear-cut, but it was a little lacking in emotional power, and the Russian melancholy that hangs over the music was only partly brought out. The Andante cantabile was warmly played with some nice lyrical touches, and there was an attractive, springy quality in the rhythm of the elegantly shaped third-movement waltz. In the finale Saraste generated a good deal of energy in the playing, perfectly in style and without idiosyncrasy. But the music’s inherent depth of passion was not quite caught. As the Beethoven had been, the Symphony was given an enjoyable, faithful and in a curious way user-friendly account, but not one that shook the emotions. Nor did the LPO play quite at its formidable best. But the audience’s response was very enthusiastic, and maybe that’s all that matters.

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