London Symphony Orchestra

Sunday, 19:00, The Barbican, London 18/12/16

Something a bit different for the festive season, plus who doesn’t love the LSO, Mozart and Tchaik? I for one love all three. The evening commenced with a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 1, with Nikolaj Znaider of the Mariinsky Orchestra in St Petersburg on solo violin. The orchestra comprised of the first four desks from each string section (all standing, the shorter members on podiums which was lol), with two double basses, two horns, and two oboes. Melodies were simple, resolutions were predictable, as is always the way with Mozart.

The relationship between the soloist and the chamber orchestra was just spectacular to watch. Znaider clearly had a very heavy bromance going on with the leader, thanking him before and after pretty much every movement. This was unsurprising however, as the leader was just brilliant. He played in a way that was certainly more expressive and impassioned than Znaider, regardless of the fact that his part was being mirrored exactly by at least seven other players at any given moment.

After a great applause (which was notedly absent between movements- this was clearly one well- rehearsed audience) we were ready for Concerto No 4, which was largely of the same ilk as no 1 in all honesty. Here we were treated to some pretty heavy chromaticism which was probably my least favourite part of the concerto due to the uneasiness and discord it created. It just didn’t really seem to fit in and was all over a bit too quickly to make a real point. Criticism aside, the first half was filled to the brim with both virtuoso playing and conducting by Znaider, who made Mozart’s simple melodic constructs look difficult, and his highly-complicated cadenzas look facile.

In the second half, we were joined by the rest of the full London Symphony Orchestra for a real treat- Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4. This symphony is a whirlwind of emotion for the audience, the player, and certainly the composer for whom the music depicted the moments leading up to real- life crisis.

Znaider downed his violin and donned his baton for this one, presenting us with an erratic and even comical style of conducting unlike anything I have seen before. Aside from the music, it was fascinating to watch the actual level of involvement that each instrument had throughout the piece. For example, there are sixteen first violins, who play pretty much constantly whether it be the main melody, a call and response between string sections, harmonic accompaniment, or a whole movement of pizzicato. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the singular piccolo player, the timpanist, or even the guy whose sole job is to play the cymbals, or the guy next to him on the triangle- I kid you not. I started paying attention to how these musicians prepare for their solos. The piccolo player had to warm up her instrument with her hands for a while before she played, the cymbal player had to be nudged by the bass drum player when it was his turn. The pressure to get it right must have been immense.

The music itself was great, the opening was a bit wobbly in the horn section, but that was soon forgotten as we were taken through the anguish and turmoil that the symphony depicts, some moments making us hold our breath and others making us want to applause before the proper time. There were, however, no tears, which can only be a testament to the playing and not the composition. One look at the LSO’s busy touring schedule and you can see why- with at least three concerts a week all performing different repertoire it us understandable that not every performance on their tour will be as awe inspiring as the last.

8/10 for troublesome trumpets and torpid tears


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