Peer Gynt – Suite No.1, Op.46 [Morning Mood – Death of Åse – Anitra’s Dance – In the Hall of the Mountain King]
The Lark Ascending – Romance for violin and orchestra
Tzigane – Rapsodie de concert for violin and orchestra
The Planets – Suite for large orchestra, Op.32
Vilde Frang (violin)
London Philharmonic Choir (women’s voices)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott
Reviewed: 22 May, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic’s concert of popular classics brought freshly painted renditions of familiar pieces.
The selection from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” was given a sensitive outing, Jurowski moulding the pieces with economic and elegant baton-free gestures. The flute solos in ‘Morning Mood’ were radiant whilst the strings in ‘Death of Åase’ had body and presence, the use of antiphonal strings helping to clearly delineate the centre-stage cello line. ‘Anitra’s Dance’ had appropriate lilting grace and the percussion in ‘The Hall of the Mountain King’ was played with gusto without sounding bombastic.
The Norwegian violinist, Vilde Frang, gave a reserved and ego-free interpretation of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending; the misty sounds she magically conjured added to the mystery of the music; this was playing of fluidity and lightness to create the sensation of a bird in flight. Frang hypnotised the audience (the Royal Festival Hall was packed) and then changed mood and tone for Ravel’s Tzigane, an acidic, rugged and black-humoured display.
Jurowski’s account of The Planets was very impressive – one of the best – the LPO absolutely immaculate. ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ brought real terror and menace yet without sounding merely loud and shrill. In stark contrast ‘Venus, the Bringer of Peace’ was serene with perfectly intoned horn solos and wonderfully mellow strings (arguably the finest-sounding in London). ‘Mercury, the Winged Messenger’ had wonderful balance between timpani, woodwinds and the darting strings – every detail could be heard with chamber-like clarity.
The brass section was majestic and glowed wonderfully in ‘Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity’, percussion incisive and refined whereas in ‘Saturn, Bringer of Old Age’ timpani were a threatening menace with aptly stern and strident brass. The ‘Magician’ that is ‘Uranus’ was buoyant and chirpy, and in ‘Neptune, the mystic’, the off-stage women’s choir worked wonders to create distance. This was a performance of The Planets to cherish – from London’s finest conductor-and-orchestra partnership – which was recorded for the LPO’s label.