Composition (30 January 2006) [LSO/UBS Sound Adventures commission: World premiere]
Violin Concerto No.1 in D, Op.19
Lisa Batiashvili (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 7 May, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Prokofiev’s high-wire First Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili was another matter entirely. Yes, it would be possible to find fault with the degree of latitude Batiashvili allowed herself, occasionally pulling phrases around, but in this concerto where the soloist is seldom silent and the writing is frequently stratospheric, she has the priceless ability to compel attention. Sometimes this concerto is treated as a vehicle for display but from Batiashvili its emotional message was uppermost. Yuri Temirkanov and the LSO provided the most solicitous of backdrops.
The Mahler was a conundrum. This is one of the LSO’s ‘signature’ pieces ever since 1960s’ recordings with Solti and Horenstein. On this occasion there were many fine things – the very opening was beautifully poised, the double basses soft but present in the mix, and later in the movement there was a real frisson at the tuba’s entry, and Temirkanov’s instincts generally lead him the direction of taking his time which is surely right (the Ländler’s tempo was agreeably relaxed).
However, although Temirkanov can do detail beautifully, there was an absence of expansion and contraction, of building tensions over long spans, and this was particularly destructive in the outer movements, especially in the finale. This was certainly loud enough with a wonderful bass drum sounding like the crack of doom but the long string theme needed much greater inwardness and control of its ebb and flow in order to fulfil its structural purpose before the volcanic return of the movement’s opening.
Reservations aside, it was interesting to hear another ‘take’ on Mahler by a conductor who stands outside the tradition.