LPO/Krivine At Sea

Overture – The Fair Melusine, Op.32
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21
Le Tombeau de Couperin
La Mer – Three Symphonic Sketches

Nelson Goerner (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Emmanuel Krivine

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 28 April, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

However little he may previously have been known, there can be little doubt as to Emmanuel Krivine’s burgeoning reputation in the UK – London in particular. Last year saw a much-lauded account of Ein Heldenleben with the LSO; earlier this year, though, another LPO concert seemed less winning; on this occasion, he directed the LPO again in spirited accounts of early-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century repertoire.

With a podium appearance uncannily akin to Willem Mengelberg, Krivine is a dextrous and unfailingly attentive conductor – which no doubt explains his involvement with chamber and youth orchestras across Europe. The performance of Mendelssohn’s The Fair Melusine – among his most appealing orchestral works, happily returning to concert programmes – fairly flew by: its Rhenish evocations lightly-sprung, and the more ominous human aspects vigorously dispatched. A tauter reading – ably rendered by the LPO, with only a little scampering in the strings – would be hard to imagine.

With the late withdrawal of Maria João Pires, Nelson Goerner offered a fleet account of Chopin’s F minor concerto. Crystal-clear in his articulation of the most intricate passagework, Goerner’s particular dynamic or emotional range makes him well-suited to early Chopin in general and this work in particular. Highlights were the heightened transition into the first movement’s reprise, and an equally precipitous response to the Larghetto’s central recitative. The finale had just the right combination of poetry and lightly-worn pathos, Krivine ensuring a lively response to some of Chopin’s most imaginative orchestral touches.

After Zoltán Kocsis’s not-a-little controversial account of a six-movement Le Tombeau de Couperin in Birmingham, Krivine took a safer but never less than elegant traversal through the customary four movements the composer himself orchestrated. The liquid expression of Prélude and Menuet, not to mention the tart harmonies of Forlane, were a delight; less so the rhythmic awkwardness of Rigaudon – with a dreadful ritardando in its closing bars the one serious miscalculation of the evening.

A more general criticism of Krivine might be that, for all the preparation that evidently goes into his performances, and his care over how the music itself sounds, his interpretations lack a personal dimension. More expertly marshalled an account of La Mer, cleanly phrased and – certainly in the latter two movements, less so the first which emerged rather episodically – inevitable in the ebb and flow of its organic transformation, is unlikely to be heard over several seasons. Yet the expressive intensity of the music, drawing on impulses as much human as of nature, was crucially sold short.

Exciting to listen to, then, but hardly memorable as a listening experience. Krivine is nevertheless a conductor who gets consistently fine results from musicians: a professionalism such as his deserves respect and which ought to be earn him repeated invites to London.

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