Purcell, edited Britten
Chacony in G minor
Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
Symphony No.9 in C, D944 (Great)
Maria João Pires (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 10 June, 2012
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
With Henry Purcell’s Chacony the concert opened in sombre if lofty style, the LSO strings slightly reduced in personnel but giving full weight as required leavened by many dynamic contrasts sometimes pared to privacy. Baroque music this might be but it attracted Benjamin Britten’s ‘modern’ editing skills and Bernard Haitink continued to make it relevant for today.
Understatement informed the Mozart. This was a drama from within; subtle and beguiling music-making. Maria João Pires’s playing is the art that disguises art. She is part of the team but with a character that shines. With no need to make points, there was an intimacy to this performance that sucked the listener in, both on a temporal level (transitions and dovetailing were seamless) and in expressive terms, appealing but potent, peaking in demonstration through Pires’s use of Beethoven’s cadenzas. In an account of rhythmic élan and lyrical loveliness, Pires, Haitink and the LSO really hit it off – gentle, discriminating and rewarding – and they return next season for two more Mozart concertos … oh, and also in a few days’ time!
Schubert’s grand symphony needs a sense of direction without resorting to the regularity of a sewing machine, and there are inner details and outer pointing to consider. It’s a question of balance – through tempos that satisfy momentum and articulation, and of good blend between the instrumental choirs. Haitink judged things to a nicety, unfolding the symphony in a way that did justice to its nobility and its intent. Here was a rendition of grace and springiness, and of a measure that combined healthy tone, incisiveness and shape into a compelling whole. If the second-movement Andante con moto was on the nifty side, it was never remorseless, inhaling into lyricism and exhaling to catastrophe naturally. Haitink passed over the outer-movement repeats and observed only the first in the scherzo (weighty yet dancing) and the first in the trio (lilting), but this was a perfectly proportioned performance within itself, persuasive and inevitable, the LSO (woodwinds exceptional, brass glowing and antiphonal violins dialoguing with meaning) inexhaustible in its finesse and thrust. Impeccable: something that Bernard Haitink does so well.