Prélude à laprès-midi dun faune
Violin Concerto No.2 [Revised Version]
Scheherazade Symphonic Suite, Op.35
Julia Fischer (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 24 April, 2005
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The structure of this highly enjoyable concert is maybe best appreciated as an exploration of the ‘soloist’ in different guises – the shimmering textures of Debussy in which not only the flute has the limelight, then an especially difficult concerto, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s great symphonic suite with its concertante aspect. And all the pieces are bound by a similar approach to composition, a getting away from harmony as the chief organising principle. All three composers focus more on thematic unity and transformation, on timbre and registration, to achieve expressive ends.
Debussy’s Prélude, although a relatively early work in the scheme of things, already reveals how timbre can be used as a structural basis. Even the harmonic and melodic material is used in novel ways to project a fractal curtain of constantly shifting patterns. Emmanuel Krivine created and sustained the delicate orchestral balance necessary to make Debussy’s ideas lucid. This was a beautiful performance, well-paced and natural, with the entire work seeming to grow effortlessly out of Gareth Davies’s opening flute solo, which rolled like delicate thunder into the hall.
Effortless could surely describe Julia Fischer’s phenomenal playing in Bartók’s Concerto. But that’s not to say there was a lack of tension or excitement – this was a performance filled with fire and colour as well as moving lyricism. And Fischer was ably supported by the orchestra under Krivine, continuing the clarity and balance heard in the Debussy with a seamless elegance that kept one mentally glancing back to that very different soundworld. Here ‘theme and variation’ keeps a tight rein on material that ranges from Hungarian folk-tunes to twelve-tone procedures. Fischer’s ample technique embraced it all; she played Bartók’s revision of the concerto (concerning only the work’s end), something not stated in the programme.
Boris Garlitsky’s (guest-leading, and normally to be found with the LPO) played the violin solos in Scheherazade in an entirely different way. But it was just as effective (and affective); the cadenza-like solos infused with a freedom that also characterised much of the playing from the rest of the LSO’s soloists. And, again, the orchestra responded as a magnificent unit to Krivine’s expert direction, producing some well-judged climaxes.