Serenade in C minor, K388
Nonet in F, Op.31
Soloists of the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Boris Garlitsky (violin/director)
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 12 March, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Chamber music concerts by ensembles drawn from orchestras have become a regular occurrence in recent years, and no wonder – given that they provide the opportunity for a different level of performance and, as this diverse yet well-planned recital amply demonstrated, a different area of repertoire.
The evening opened with Martinů’s Nonet (1959), a late work in which the heightened lyricism of the composer’s last years is combined with a rhythmic dexterity that is more than unusually redolent of Stravinsky. The highlight is the central Andante in which mere fragments of melody coalesce into a continual melodic line – one motivated by simple but distinctive accompanying figures that were ably delineated in what was a fine if, at least in the outer movements, slightly too reticent performance.
A fine work, if no masterpiece like Mozart’s C minor Serenade – last and least ‘serenade-like’ of his large-scale wind ensembles. The LPO Soloists were keenly aware of its symphonic potential, as witnessed by the first movement’s driving energy (a pity that there was no exposition repeat) and harmonic depth of the deceptively relaxed Andante. The minuet’s canonic rigour was subtly conveyed, as was the cumulative momentum of the Variations that comprise the decidedly equivocal finale.
From the opposite expressive end of the spectrum, Gounod’s once ubiquitous Petite Symphonie (1885) made for an admirable foil. No symphonist when it came to developing his ideas (as is demonstrated by his two symphonies!), Gounod is content to place his appealing melodic invention and judicious instrumental interplay at the centre of his four delightful movements – and the players responded with an account as animated and urbane as is the music.
Nor does Louis Spohr’s Nonet (1813) enjoy the popularity it once did, though here the limitations of his musical idiom are more evident – notably a dutiful approach to the developing of ideas that, certainly in the outer movements, can verge on the predictable. A greater verve in this account might have offset this, but there was no doubting the ingenuity with which the scherzo and its two trios are interleaved, while the Adagio’s soulful warmth – anticipating the dawn of Romanticism – was magically rendered.
So, an absorbing and entertaining recital from the LPO Soloists, the musicians clearly enjoying their evening ‘off duty’. Do try to catch their remaining concerts at the Wigmore Hall towards the end of this season.