Ten years of Vladimir Jurowski in London have brought a non-stop journey of discovery. As the London Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates his decade as music director, it can look back on a period of unrivalled adventure, taking audiences to places other orchestras never reach.
Jurowski has shown a special penchant for outsized, glittering, post-Romantic scores from the early 20th century, bagging each one like another big game trophy. Even by his standards, though, Joseph Marx’s Autumn Symphony is a whopper.
Is it surprising the work went unperformed for more than 80 years after the premiere? It lasts longer than Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and calls for an orchestra of vast resources. Well over 100 players were on the stage for this performance, including six horns, piano, celesta, two harps and 10 percussionists (all the other London orchestras must have had the night off).
Imagine a documentary showing panoramic vistas of a countryside glimmering in its autumn colours of gold, russet and brown. If it was in search of a soundtrack, Marx’s Eine Herbstsymphonie would fit the bill. Marx was a contemporary of Klimt and the shimmering, rich textures of his music rival in sound the extravagant luxury of Klimt’s golden period. For almost the whole of the symphony’s 75 minutes all the players seem to be at work and Jurowski characteristically spent his time coolly sifting the complex textures where other conductors might indulge its sheer extravagance.
He is lucky that the players of the London Philharmonic can get to grips with such a challenging work for a single performance and make a fine job of it. To be honest, it is not a symphony one would want to hear often. Being saturated in romantic indulgence can get wearing quite quickly, though any five minutes of Marx in full flood is undeniably an intoxicating experience.
As an hors d’oeuvre, Julia Fischer played two short pieces for violin and orchestra. Chausson’s Poème conjures a similar sound-world of post-Wagnerian luxury. Respighi’s rarely heard Autumn Poem adds the playfulness of Pan to the autumn picture. Fischer was delightfully pure-toned and direct in both.
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