Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Symphony No.11 in G minor, Op.103 (The Year 1905)
Janine Jensen (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Clarke
Reviewed: 15 May, 2008
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The last time I heard Janine Jensen (at Wigmore Hall in 2005), she struck me as an impressive interpreter of Elgar, Janáček and Messiaen but she did not leave the impression that she was a violinist of any great stature. Much has happened in the intervening three years, for this was Beethoven playing of the very first order. Despite a rather wobbly start (some suspect intonation in her very first entrance) it soon became apparent that this was the playing of a true musician. Phrases dovetailed beautifully between soloist and orchestra, and in the first movement cadenza Jansen really came into her own.
Gianandrea Noseda (making his LSO debut) accompanied sensitively. Again, there was a sense of him coming into the performance. The opening was not entirely together, nor entirely confident. But he inspired the LSO strings to a beautiful sound in the slow movement (alas marred by latecomers taking their seats). Jansen’s held-breath delicacy in this movement was stunning and a perfect contrast to the fire of the finale. A special word of praise for principal bassoonist, Rachel Gough – her contribution was a joy. For an encore, Jansen offered the ‘Sarabande’ from Bach’s D minor Partita.
In Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony, it would have taken some performance to erase memories of Rostropovich’s astonishing account with this orchestra in March 2002 (now available on LSO Live LSO0030). Noseda did not come close. This symphony requires a very special interpreter if it is not to sound diffuse, or even unnecessarily filmic.
Noseda unaccountably seemed intent on bringing hints of warmth to the opening ‘frozen’ chords (the result of an in-built Italianate tendency to bring expression to everything?). There were some wonderful solo contributions here (the two flutes in ‘Palace Square’, the bass clarinet of the symphony’s coda), plus some noteworthy string playing, especially from the violas, whose mournful extended line in ‘In memoriam’ was positively mesmeric. The strings as a whole in the misty scampering of ‘9 January’ were slightly laboured, though, and there is a rawness to this movement that was missing. Noseda ensured the opening gesture of the finale (‘Tocsin’) made its mark, but there followed immediately a sag in drama that scuppered this sterling work. Indeed, it seems that Noseda decided not to try to project any underlying cogency; the first movement in particular sounded overly rambling.
Both Rostropovich and also André Cluytens (in his 1958 Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française recording, now on Testament SBT 1099) amply demonstrate that this symphony can provide a meaningful emotional experience. Noseda is not yet ready to join such elite company.