London Philharmonic – Matthew Coorey replaces Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Mahler 9 … Lisa Batiashvili plays Mozart

Violin Concerto in G, K216
Symphony No.9

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Lisa Batiashvili (violin) [Mozart]
Matthew Coorey [Mahler]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 28 March, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Yannick Nézet-Séguin went down with “severe gastric flu”, paving the way for Matthew Coorey to take over the presumably-daunting prospect of conducting Mahler 9 at short notice. (Of less import, your reviewer was not as planned!) Lisa Batiashvili opted to direct as well as play. (K216 had been in the book a while, save it was originally Bartók’s First Violin Concerto.) She made a few gestures to get each movement going and then left it to the much-reduced LPO to get on with things, which its musicians did with style and composure. Batiashvili didn’t hang around, the swift speeds accommodated with poise, focus and clarity. Presumably the cadenzas were her own – a little wayward and macho in the first movement. The Adagio became an andante but remained a shapely aria, always expressive, although the finale couldn’t escape the charge of being hard driven.

Matthew Coorey counts Mark Elder, Seiji Ozawa, Jorma Panula and Gerard Schwarz as mentors. He has been successful in conducting competitions – the Georg Solti and the Maazel-Vilar. Coorey seems a cool customer: he strolled onto the Royal Festival Hall platform as if he was meant to be there. If this Mahler 9 was not the most personal of interpretations, it was certainly experienced and faithful to the score, and also evinced a natural ebb and flow. Coorey did a proper conducting job, guiding the players with lucid gestures that always served music that was new to him. He might though have checked balances – brass was often too loud and dominating, and cymbal clashes could rarely be called subtle; nor was the quieter end of the dynamic scale explored to any significant degree until the very end; no antiphonal violins either (ideal for Mahler).

However, his pacing of the first movement was an ideal Andante comodo (accommodating), flowing and continuous, much-less suggesting ‘one foot in the grave’ than can be case. (After all, No.9 was never meant to be Mahler’s last symphony and he almost finished the Tenth.) Coorey conjured a clear-sighted, well-versed account that was always going somewhere and which arrived there (climaxes blazed and the delicate intertwining of ‘chamber music’ solos was confident); the journey never dawdled yet took thirty minutes (a little above the average): it seemed less: a compliment.

The middle movements were less successful, although just as wholesome and tweak-free, the succession of Ländler in the second movement too elegant and comfortable; there are more collisions than emerged here. The ‘Rondo-Burleske’ was cautious in tempo, ‘dirty’ music texturally spring-cleaned, not dangerous or indifferent enough, although the middle section was radiant.

Best, probably, was the slow finale, like the first movement persuasively paced, deeply felt without becoming mawkish and with the ‘string trio’ of Pieter Schoeman, David Marks and Kristina Blaumane exceptionally eloquent and heartfelt, the music’s increasing fragility and pausing well-managed (if not respected by coughers, and between-movement clapping once again reared its ugly head from some) to close a very creditable performance – and sometimes it was more than that.

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