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My hunch is that when we finally look back on the closure period of the Royal Festival Hall, it will be seen not as a time of limited artistic scope but as the golden dawn of Vladimir Jurowski’s London concert career.
His relationship with the London Philharmonic began before the closure, to be sure, but they have used this time to try out ideas and get to know each other in a way you can’t in a large space. None of this has been lost on London audiences, who are beginning to see the massive potential of this partnership when the Festival Hall reopens next year.
Thus it was last week that Jurowski conducted what on paper seemed a low-key programme – three pieces with a sombre thread – and reaped a rich musical harvest.
It began with Haydn and Mozart – composers that have become the preserve of period-instrument orchestras but whom the LPO is probing as a palate cleanser, with consequent refinements in balance, timbre, style, individual responsibility and mutual trust.
The pay-off in Haydn’s Symphony No 49 (“La passione”) was a sense of all parts having room to speak, while being drawn together – not drilled – by a defining intelligence.
This impression of chamber-musical cohesion continued to Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola, the work that, in my book, has profited most from the Mozart year.
In Baiba Skride and Isabelle van Keulen, it had interpreters who treated the music not as an in-your-face demonstration of string culture but as a dialogue of youth and maturity, energy and reflection, question and answer.
Skride is a force of the spirit, with fine, sweet tone of the old east European school. Can we please have her back?
And finally Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 1, “Winter Dreams”, whose lines and colours Jurowski traced with the aplomb of a Dr Miracle; a classical rather than passionate or sentimental Tchaikovsky, and much the better for it.
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