London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski – Russian Easter Festival Overture & Pathétique Symphony – Miloš Karadaglić plays Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez

Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op.36
Concierto de Aranjuez
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)

Miloš Karadaglić (guitar)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski

Reviewed by: Alan Sanders

Reviewed: 25 April, 2014
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Though the Russian Easter Festival Overture is scored with Rimsky-Korsakov’s usual mastery, it is not an easy work to bring off, since in the wrong hands the insistent pounding rhythms that feature strongly can sound repetitive and dull. Not on this occasion, since Vladimir Jurowski took great care to point accents clearly and lightly and the London Philharmonic’s ensemble was immaculate. Indeed, it was a brilliantly played, colourful and exciting performance.

Miloš Karadaglić. Photograph: Miloš Karadaglić has already recorded Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for DG with the LPO (under Yannick Nézet-Séguin), but this was his first London concert with an orchestra. It was decided that his guitar had to be discreetly amplified, even though the scoring is economical, but this was done in such a clever fashion that all the sound seemed to come from the instrument itself, and not from disparate loudspeakers. The young Montenegro-born artist justified his burgeoning reputation in a performance that was tasteful and beautifully played. Not much more can be expected of any soloist in this ever-popular piece, Rodrigo’s writing handled carefully and sympathetically by Jurowski. The enthusiastic audience response prompted Karadaglić to play an encore, a transcription of the ‘Danza del molinero’ from Falla’s ballet, The Three-Cornered Hat.

Vladimir Jurowski. Photograph: Sheila Rock, dressed by Ermenegildo ZegnaAfter the interval Jurowski appeared not on the rostrum, but in front of a microphone at the side of the stage. In very polite terms, tinged with humour, he made a short speech in which he asked audience members not to applaud at the end of the rousing third movement of the Symphony he was about to conduct. So often, unwanted clapping intrudes at this point.

The performance of the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony which followed had many fine qualities. The quiet opening was full of atmosphere and expectation; and as the first movement developed all the changes of tempo and the inflections of phrase seemed just right – communication was urgent, but expression was natural and unforced, with no exaggerated point-making. Jurowski took the second-movement waltz at a fairly brisk tempo (it is after all marked Allegro con grazia), and the grace requested was certainly found here. The march-like third movement was also taken quickly, and with no changes of pulse or tempo. This might not always convince, but it did here, as there was no feeling of loss of expression or personality. Just in case any in the audience had forgotten about not applauding, Jurowski held his left hand out, and after the briefest of pauses he embarked on a beautifully moulded, passionate yet refined account of the slow finale. The LPO seemed perfectly at-one with its conductor in bringing out the music’s despair and tragedy.

This was an evening of well-known works, but no feeling of bored familiarity was evident, for the music-making was so alive and fresh.

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