Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
The Worlds Ransoming
Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105
Sarah Chang (violin)
Christine Pendrill (cor anglais)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 24 September, 2003
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Repeated this evening, the 25th, this LSO programme gives an opportunity to sample Sarah Chang’s recent assumption of the Beethoven concerto. Given her close relationship with Sir Colin Davis, and given his straight, true and contemporary view of the music he conducts, this was a telling collaboration, a spacious view with lyricism stressed and recesses explored – no history lesson, rather a living, breathing and involving account for today. All power to such a conception! Springy and marching the first movement can be, maybe should be, but this broad account carried its own charge and volition for all of its 26 minutes, the cadenza (Kreisler’s, I believe) made cumulative rather than an add-on.
Chang’s wiry and plangent sound, enlivened with vibrato (of course) is well suited to Beethoven’s lyrical and heartfelt outpouring; the slow movement, blissfully conducted by Sir Colin, was no mere continuance of the stately first movement – different colours and expressive countenances were found. The moderate tempo for the finale was a joy in the art of musical articulacy.
On musical grounds alone, it’s not always possible to get past James MacMillan’s gestural use of the orchestra in response to events, although one is always aware of a narrative and some sort of spiritual journey. Here plainsong and Bach underpin tumult, in which aggressive brass seems more gratuitous than developmental. If the ’noisy’ parts of this work appear utilitarian, then the lamenting cor anglais solos are immediately expressive and personal, and beautifully played, as ever, by Christine Pendrill.
Just a few months ago, the LSO played Sibelius 7 for Antonio Pappano, who encouraged a visceral, Puccinian soundworld while losing the structural plot of Sibelius’s meant-to-be seamless conception. Put a master Sibelian on the podium – and what a difference. This rough-hewn, elemental, but never coarse account (LSO brass beautifully integrated) was as unvarnished as the music is indivisible in its construction. Put simply, this short but tremendous symphony was perfectly paced, developed and journeyed, with peaks of intensity in organic accord. It’s difficult to imagine this great work better done.
- Concert repeated on 25 September at 7.30. Box Office: 0845 120 7550