Britten – Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes’, op.33aMozart – Piano Concerto no.17 in G major, KV 453
Beethoven – Symphony no.7 in A major, op.92
Maria João Pires (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink (conductor).
There is not a great deal of Britten orchestral music, so this anniversary year will doubtless hear a good few outings for the Four Sea Interludes. I doubt that any will come better than this scorching – drenching? – account from Bernard Haitink and the London Symphony Orchestra. The opening strings of ‘Dawn’ managed to sound both translucent and brilliant, answered by woodwind marine fantasy and grave foreboding from the brass. The movement was as dramatically pregnant as I have heard, perhaps still more so: what we have lost in Haitink’s continued absence from the Royal Opera House, and what, during that period, the LSO has gained! Britten is at his best when his music is evidently ‘constructed’ – think of The Turn of the Screw, surely his masterpiece – and constructed is just how ‘Sunday Morning’ sounded here. Its building-up of fourths put me distantly in mind of Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony and of Bartók. Again, Britten is at his best when rescued from parochialism, likewise the festival he founded at Aldeburgh. Even if some of the movement and much of the ensuing ‘Moonlight’ sounds uncomfortably close to the banalities of Shostakovich, Haitink shaped them very well indeed. The conductor unsurprisingly schewed easy histrionics in the ‘Storm’ in favour of structural integrity, always a Haitink watchword. The LSO brass were in fantastic form, but so, to be fair, was the entire orchestra. It was then a pity, to put it mildly, that a man seated across the aisle from me started to snore loudly; it was also astonishing, given the decibel and voltage levels. Would that his neighbour had taken the trouble to awaken him, both here and in the Mozart concerto that followed.