LSO/Bernard Haitink – Purcell & Bruckner – Maria João Pires plays Mozart K488

Purcell arr. Steven Stucky
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary
Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488
Symphony No.7 in E [Nowak edition]

Maria João Pires (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 14 June, 2012
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Bernard Haitink offered a generous programme with the LSO, prefacing Mozart’s sunny A major Piano Concerto with Steven Stucky’s arrangement (from 1992, for woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and harp) of Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary. Stucky’s version is less stark than the original, affording some awesome timpani and bass drum strokes to resound profoundly during the music’s downcast strides. Stucky’s writing for piano and harp is most inventive, intensely polyphonic, and the restatement of the opening material is stately and uplifting – a great workout for the LSO’s magnificent brass section.

Maria João Pires. Photograph: Christian SteinerA beguiling and seductive account of the Mozart followed, its cheeriness informing the outer movements whilst enigmatic introspection shadowed the central Adagio. Maria João Pires’s pianism is always-welcome for its unfussiness and for being at the service of the music. At once tender and intimate, her contribution was the child to the orchestra’s nurturing adult. Occasionally Pires pushed too much in the Adagio, but the finale found her and the orchestra in close dialogue: dazzling without blinding, this was playful and sweet music-making.

Bernard Haitink. Photograph: Matthias CreutzigerAndrew Huth’s programme note has been chopped about poorly for LSO Bruckner 7s and has not been fixed: Sir Colin Davis insists on placing the scherzo as the second movement (nothing to do with Bruckner or any of his editors) and, unthinkingly, this was what was printed here, the text’s paragraphs in the wrong order and contrary to Bruckner’s and Haitink’s ordering of movements.

Haitink delivered a compelling traversal, a nimble one, the LSO fully responsive to his certain direction, the whole work driven by a pulse that kept one engrossed. The strings in the opening movement sang gloriously, and the movement’s close, although broad, was but a staging-post on this epic journey. The Adagio was beautifully executed: the Nowak-accepted if ‘controversial’ cymbals and triangle at the climax less prominent than usual (good, and good that they were there), though thunderous timpani marred this climactic moment. The pacing and balances in the scherzo conjured a locomotive steaming along, and the central trio soothed. Anguish and ecstasy sat side-by-side in the finale, again determined with conviction, the slow-down at the close bringing radiance. The LSO played wonderfully for Haitink. Bruckner and Haitink: a combination not to be missed.

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