Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 6 March, 2009
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
It was popular-Tchaikovsky night in London (Piano Concerto No.1 was being offered in the Royal Festival Hall). No prizes for innovation, then, and this LSO concert also followed the regrettable modern trend of side-stepping a short orchestral opener (even though there’s no end of choice, not least from the Russian repertoire) and we were plunged ‘cold’ into the concerto.
However unsatisfying such planning is, from first note to last, this was a refreshing and absorbing account of Rachmaninov’s most-expansive piano concerto, a performance of co-operation, integration and discretion, which allowed the most ‘full-on’ moments to emerge not only thrillingly but also organically. There was also a sure sense of shape and direction, Leif Ove Andsnes’s fabulously musicalplaying served by an equally fabulous technique, his wholesome approach displayed from the off with a flowing and unaffected presentation of the opening melody. With orchestral details prescient, precise and freshly considered, Antonio Pappano and the LSO equally displayed their wares as well as being ‘at one’ with Andsnes. Orchestral clarity and good balance were paramount, which matched Andsnes’s detailed, refined and whole-viewed account of the solo part.
A similar totality informed the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony – during which nothing was taken for granted – from the ‘dark and light’ of the opening (a particularly mournful initial statement, enhanced by David Hubbard’s bassoon solo, followed by a lightly tripping allegro). The more consolatory music was softly voluptuous and then – further contrast – violently interrupted (following Nele Delafonteyne’s poised clarinet solo, which was magically segued to its bass counterpart).
So it was that Pappano seemed to be pointing up maximum oppositions in the score as a whole (without losing continuity) – a ‘Waltz’ with a lit, a smile and a heart-stopping linger, and a ‘March’ that married zest and pride. Applause at the end of this third movement (which can happen) would have been ruinous; fortunately this (capacity) audience gave no response at all and allowed Pappano to plunge straight (more or less) into the slow finale, despairing but not mawkish, railing to a perfectly-timed and ominous-sounding gong stroke, the music then sinking to oblivion despite the (nine) double basses holding on to dear life for as long as possible … then nothing … except silence.