LSO/Kreizberg Mahler 2 – 15 March

Symphony No.2 in C minor (Resurrection)

Linda Mabbs (soprano) & Katarina Dalayman (mezzo-soprano)

London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 15 March, 2003
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

A sizeable standing ovation greeted this performance which marked Yakov Kreizberg’s belated debut with the London Symphony Orchestra. Thoroughly deserved as well, with the orchestra and chorus joining in the acclamation for this St Petersburg-born conductor who, since 1976, has made his home in America.

Kreizberg is well known to British audiences.He has scored notable successes with the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia and BBC Symphony Orchestras, while his tenure as music director at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra saw him not only tour extensively in the south west, but also across the country (I remember a particularly fine Mozart 35 & Mahler 6 in Carlisle on 18 May 1996) and at the Proms. He has appeared at Glyndebourne (Deborah Warner’s Don Giovanni, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – available on DVD) and at English National Opera, where he conducted Jonathan Miller’s original production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (which – coincidentally – is being revived currently with fellow Russian Sinaisky conducting).So it may come as a surprise that he has not appeared with the LSO before now.

Certainly the partnership was intent on making up for lost time.Here, without a score, Kreizberg directed a volatile and dramatic reading of the Resurrection, which was presented, perhaps curiously given the subject matter, not only as part of National Orchestra Week but also the Jewish Arts Festival.With an extended stage, the sound in the first movement was at times intensely immediate, the strings’ semiquaver rushes at the beginning having real bite, and tuttis capable of enormous volume but, equally, Kreizberg’s whiplash conducting technique could ameliorate mechanical precision with subtle results to achieve the tenderest of moments, including spontaneous rubato and some lilting glissandi that would make the hardest heart melt.

And yet some speeds could be surprisingly measured – the entry of the dominant theme in the final movement pulled back heavily, although never threatening to break the continuity of Mahler’s argument.If it was the second movement, the string-based ländler, that fared worst (or perhaps that should be ’fared least well’) that may have been because of some hugely intrusive coughing by a couple of insensitive members of the audience (have they not heard of handkerchiefs?), and the fact that Kreizberg left the stage between the first and second movement, bringing the soloists on, which – perhaps understandably – resulted in a second round of applause, and the need for everyone to settle down a second time.

Yet everything else about this performance was well thought out and executed.The off-stage brass and percussion in the final movement passed without untoward incident, and extra trumpets and horns entered the auditorium (to the far left and far right of the conductor respectively, on the furthest aisles, next to the side walls) for the final peroration, although the improved acoustic was unable to properly distinguish the sounds from where I was sitting. Soloists Linda Mabbs and Katarina Dalayman – both wearing black, aptly – matched the commitment of the chorus, who only stood for the final fortissimo chorus.

More than twenty years on it still strikes me as incredulous that a major hall could have been built without a proper choir area and at least the possibility for the provision of a real organ.In this performance, the stage was so packed that the organ console had to be offstage, and the only visible sign of its contribution were the speakers lining the sides of the stage to pipe in the sound.

Oddly enough, it is exactly three months since I heard my last live Mahler 2 (Haitink, LPO, 15 December), and I was worried that familiarity might start to breed contempt. However, under Kreizberg’s charge, the LSO and Chorus delivered a memorable performance that I recommend – it is repeated on Sunday the 16th, and one would hope that Kreizberg will be making a speedy return to the LSO.

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