LPO/Masur Louis Lortie … From the New World

Rosamunde – Overture
Piano Concerto No.2 in D minor, Op.40
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 (From the New World)

Louis Lortie (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Kurt Masur

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 8 October, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Kurt MasurSince he stepped down as Principal Conductor (and seemingly without the honorary titles afforded him in Paris, Leipzig and New York), Kurt Masur’s visits to the London Philharmonic have been few and far between. But, absence makes the heart grow fonder, it is said, and the LPO played with real devotion for Masur on this fleeting glimpse of him, even if the symphony was familiar – both in itself and because it was last heard from Masur in this hall just four years ago. Nevertheless, as then, it was a performance of the utmost distinction. The one surprise was that Masur cut the exposition repeat in the first movement, something he habitually observes (in this reviewer’s experience).

Otherwise it was a reading of culture and warmth, the music given time to breathe. Time and again inner detail and dynamic contrasts caught the ear, and balances were consistently finely blended. More than that, Masur conducted a ‘European’ performance, one that may have played-down both the Slavonic and American aspects of the work, which might be thought of as essential in such a work, but which identified a Brucknerian gravitas that was very persuasive. Indeed, Masur led a deeply eloquent, often poignant, account (especially in the Largo, blessed by a wonderfully expressive cor anglais solo from Sue Bohling) that suggested more than most that this is a ‘tragic symphony’. If the music-making was too dignified for tears, Masur and the LPO musicians probed the inner recesses of this score and brought out a convincing weight and depth not usually found in this most-popular and so-often-played of symphonies.

In the concert’s first half, the overture now associated with Schubert’s music for “Rosamunde” began with inviting largesse before launching an allegro of springing vitality. Louis Lortie then made a strong case for the lesser-known of Mendelssohn’s two piano concertos (although there is now a third!), bringing out its turbulence and consolation with relish and scintillation and also uncovering its solemn beauty and poetic touches, most attractively accompanied.

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