The London Philharmonic in Australia

Manfred, Op.115 – Overture
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Vadim Repin (violin)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 2 October, 2009
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

Vladimir Jurowski, dressed by Ermenegildo Zegna. Photograph: Sheila RockWhen Australian Timothy Walker took over as the London Philharmonic’s Chief Executive and Artistic Adviser an eventual Antipodean sojourn was taken as given – it was only a question of time. After five years of planning and negotiations, that time has finally arrived, with the LPO currently on its first Australian tour in nearly 25 years. This concert marked the start of that tour and more than lived up to expectations.

Yes, it was very standard fare: Schumann, Bruch and Brahms; Rachmaninov, Ravel and Tchaikovsky for the following evening. But the programming – as well as the choice of international soloists – was deliberately designed to ensure bums on seats. In an interview ahead of the tour, Jurowski, who had never been to Australia, said that the next time round (possibly only six years away!) the programming would be a little more adventurous. It was a question of first gaining the audience’s trust.

With antiphonal violins and the double basses standing at the back of the rest of the orchestra in typical 19th-century fashion, Jurowski and the LPO opened the concert with a beautifully sculpted performance of Schumann’s Manfred Overture that allowed process of the sweeping-up of motifs into larger themes to be fully apprehended. The concertante-like detailing of Schumann’s orchestration also allowed the underlying emotional complexes while still admitting turbulent, unresolved passion.

Vadim RepinVadim Repin then gave a magisterial account of Max Bruch’s ever-popular Violin Concerto No.1. Some find Repin’s tone a little too rich; but it suits Bruch’s extravagant rhetoric – as did Repin’s flexible tempos and almost too-emphatic phrasing, in which Jurowski was to some extent complicit, especially in the fantasia-like first movement. In the second Repin was poised and unsentimental, and the finale was both noble and full of wild abandon .

Brahms’s Symphony No.1 followed the interval, and gave the full measure of the LPO and its conductor. After allowing the portentous slow introduction of the first movement to unfold without undue haste, Jurowski tapped into both the dance-like lightness and rippling anguish of the first movement with complete success. The following two movements came and went like dreams of pastoral landscapes, before a dazzling finale, surging with life and colour, brought the formal part of the concert to a memorable close. Encores were the Prelude to Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” and Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No.6.

Throughout the evening, the strings – transparent, glowing and possessed of an ensemble that can only be described as supernatural – were a constant source of delight and admiration. But so too were the rest of the orchestra: everyone played as though their lives depended on it. Which is what you want from every performance. Will we really have to wait another six years to hear these wonderful musicians again?

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