LPO/Bělohlávek Isabelle Faust

Tristan und Isolde – Prelude & Liebestod
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.53
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Isabelle Faust (violin)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 22 February, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Rather surprisingly Jiří Bělohlávek didn’t use antiphonal violins, an arrangement all these composers knew and wrote for, and one that he uses for Mahler; the result was a treble-orientated sound that the right-placed cellos and (six at most) double basses were not able to fully support. And some less than fulsome, sometimes too loud, brass could be overly present at climaxes.

Indeed, there was a business-like approach to these performances, good and musical as they were, that only intermittently inspired, the music familiarly intoned. Following success at Glyndebourne, Bělohlávek and the LPO returned to ‘Tristan’, the Prelude here curiously lacking atmosphere, and not until its very end did sound itself seem important as cellos and basses conjured a sonority that seem to convey ‘something’; the Liebestod finally brought some expressive fluidity.

The Brahms veered between static and flowing, note-spinning and something more meaningful, a classical approach (underlined by the rare taking of the exposition repeat, more intense second time round) that dragged (the opening of the Andante sostenuto) or spurted forth in gabbling fashion (the flare-up in the next movement). Best was the finale that included an effectively straightforward presentation of the ‘big’ tune and an integration of the ‘motto’ in the triumphant coda that was properly ‘in tempo’.

Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, too, was a little smooth and lacking an identifiable stamp, although the orchestral work was confident and detailed. Isabelle Faust wasn’t giving much away in terms of body language, but her silky-smooth sound, spot-on intonation and immaculate bowing were impressive; and there was heart, too, certainly in the slow movement, but whether she is fully into this work, yet, is debatable.

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