London Symphony Orchestra/Rattle review


Symphony Hall *****
The electricity humming in the air for this concert could have kept the National Grid going for some time. Not only was there the buzz coming from a packed auditorium greeting the return of Sir Simon Rattle to the hall he launched, there were also the positive ions emanating from his London Symphony Orchestra, liberated from the Barbican's mush, and relishing the acoustic properties of this miraculous space.
Rattle plays Symphony Hall like the most responsive of instruments, and here, with the supreme skills of the LSO willingly deployed, he achieved the most astonishing dynamic range, from the subtlest of pianissimos to roaring fortissimos. There was also a luminous clarity of detail, even in the most densely-scored pages of the three works by Berg which constituted the first half of the evening.
Dorothea Roschmann was the soprano soloist in the composer's Seven Early Songs, gloriously sensitive to the music's gorgeous late-Romantic hues so persuasively delivered, sometimes using her versatile voice as just another element in the often chamber-like textures.
I caught the recent BBC Radio 3 relay of Richard Strauss' Rosenkavalier from the New York Met under Rattle, and in his affectionate conducting here he showed how immersed in the fin-de-siecle idiom he is.
A reconstruction of Berg's uncompleted Passacaglia led directly into the fascinating soundworld of the Three Pieces, Op.6. Imagery colour and rhythmic pungency were conveyed grippingly in Rattle's patiently built reading, culminating in the March, heavily influenced, even down to the hammer-blows, by Mahler's Sixth Symphony, a work so beloved by Rattle.
Many of the players could go back to the smoke at the interval, with a drastically reduced orchestra giving us Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 to conclude. Actually, not totally reduced, as Rattle expanded the brass section, and intriguingly added two contrabassoons to beef up the bass line.
The care with which he sculpted the textures of the Allegretto was mesmerising, and the sheer energy unleashed in the finale, properly bursting in immediately after the Scherzo, brought us to a whirlwind of a conclusion/
Some of us might have had quibbles about a few manipulations of tempo, but the overall effect was quite intoxicating, and the cheers at the end said at all. And Rattle and his orchestra beamed back at us across the footlights.
Christopher Morley

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