Royal Festival Hall
Beethoven – Symphony no.1 in C major, op.21Thomas Larcher – Violin Concerto
Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Markus Stenz (conductor)
This was a refreshing concert from the LPO and Markus Stenz, with one work entirely new to me, and two works I might have feared I knew too well, given thought-provoking performances. Stenz’s approach to Beethoven’s First Symphony struck me from the outset as refreshingly un-ideological, save for the puzzling use of natural trumpets (though not horns, I had assumed that to be a quirk of Vladimir Jurowski, but maybe it is an LPO ‘thing’ instead). A spruce and precise first movement, particularly impressive with respect to accents and crescendi, did not, at least on occasion, lack weight. It was certainly more ‘Classical’ than Wagnerian, but there is no one way to perform this music. I should not have minded more vibrato from the strings, but at least it was not absent. If Haydn’s spirit had come to the fore structurally and motivically in that movement, Stenz’s shaping of the opening theme in the second and indeed the progress of the movement as a whole proved strikingly Mozartian: a different sort of complexity, often overlooked in Beethoven. I thought in particular of the slow movement of the Jupiter Symphony, but that was far from the only kinship suggested. Kettledrums nevertheless reminded us that this could only be Beethoven (or perhaps Haydn). My only complaint was that the orchestra sounded a little as if it were being pressed to sound ‘small-scale’, as if it were inhibited by something. There was no doubt whatsoever that the third movement was a true Beethoven scherzo; it sounded the most ‘advanced’ of the four. Its trio was graceful, though no less Beethovenian, for all the reminiscence of ‘bucolic’ Haydn. A splendidly teasing introduction to the finale captured its vocal and jesting quality. The movement possessed many of the virtues of the first, sounding lithe and lively. Excitement was musical rather than something imposed upon the music. Ultimately, this was a performance that made me think.