Two Romances – in G (Op.40) and F (Op.50)
Symphony No.1 in D Classical
Symphony No.3 in F
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 28 April, 2001
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London
One cannot fail to be moved by Itzhak Perlman’s determination and dignity as he makes his crutch-aided entrance. Much less regard though for audience members not turning off mobile phones or digital watch bleeps, or those unable to reflect for a few seconds after Brahms’s quiet ending before crashing-in with applause.
Conducting is a recent undertaking for Perlman. Egmont set his stall out – big-hearted, expressive and resolute, a fulsome response invited and received; and a marked liking for horns and bassoons, the constant domination of the former in already vivid textures became irksome.
Egmont followed the Romances, played by Perlman with charm and a warm sound similar to that he elicited from the LPO’s strings; some of his solos were less than poised with occasional doubts over bowing and intonation.
The strings negotiated Prokofiev’s taxing parts with absolute security and unanimity. Perlman’s brisk first movement, because of a limited palette of colour and dynamics, became relentless. Derailment threatened as the development sped to its rather unfocused climax – just kept on track. Perlman’s flowing speed for the ’Larghetto’ was ideal, his clipped ’Gavotte’ less than ingratiating; the finale, taken at quite a lick, although bustling with energy, lacked inflection.
Brahms 3 is a challenge to any conductor; its elusiveness and subtlety requires something innate and integral. Sifting, grading, shaping and balancing musical paragraphs with inner awareness doesn’t yet appear to be within Perlman’s gift. At its best in the middle movements – which Perlman tellingly attached as complementary nostalgic reflections flowing with eloquence and feeling – the outer movements lacked expressional variety and instrumental incident.
He also sustained some beautiful, silky-smooth, even voluptuous string playing – perhaps rather too much for Brahms’s autumnal confidences. As anticipated, bassoons were crystal-clear, but the horns’ prominence reached over-emphatic absurdity in the last movement. Perlman’s intense soundworld is generous in its communication but has yet to focus on interpretative finer points.
- The LPO’s next RFH concert is this Wednesday, 2 May, when Libor Pesek conducts Brahms’s Violin Concerto, with Hilary Hahn, and Dvorak’s ’New World’ Symphony
- On Saturday, 5 May, John Eliot Gardiner conducts the LPO in Britten’s War Requiem
- Box Office: 020 7960 4201
- Book Online: www.rfh.org.uk