Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc opened the concert, promising a night exhibiting energetic musicianship and a full display of techniques from every player. Modal inflections, reminiscent of the Renaissance period, vibrantly mixed with a daring use of harmonics and changing tempos in a furious dance. The players seemed to love the piece as much as audience members, emitting enough energy to lift them off their seats. Horn harmonics resounded from both on stage and behind the scenes, whilst Antonio Pappano displayed some fancy footwork on his podium, clearly relishing the modern twist to the folk themes.
Whilst the orchestral players were taking off, renowned soloist Midori kept her feet firmly on the ground with her performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor. Stamping with all the passion of a flamenco dancer, and at times bent double with emotion, her long bows bit in to every note of the opening. This contrasted with the haunting peace of the second movement; although full of romanticism, she was able to produce an impressively understated tone with ease. This created the quiet before the storm of the finale, where she did not hold back in reminding the audience of her virtuosic ability, exhibiting fast fingers and ferocious bow work.
This high level of vigour was maintained throughout, with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to end the demanding repertoire. Pappano became a sorcerer, conjuring up an atmosphere of mysticism and magic, aided by the mesmerising solos of Principal violinist Roman Simovic. Every note of his reoccurring melody, which represented princess Scheherazade, came alive with a full and rich tone. Korsakov’s impressive orchestration was hard to ignore, with each section savouring passionate melodic moments. Especially notable was the infamous bassoon solo- it was overtly expressive, taking each member of the audience to Sultan Shariar’s palace. Furthermore, the effortless nature of Tim Hugh’s arpeggiated moments were enough to inspire any cellist, like me, to go home and practise a few more scales. However it was not until the tutti passages that the full talent of the LSO became clear, with striking dynamic contrasts and occasional percussion flourishes that kept the age old Arabian tale alive.
Pappano and the LSO thoroughly succeeded in mixing a high level of technique with all the dynamism of an orchestra playing the pieces for the first time. Every note produced was treasured, resulting in a performance full of dramatic story telling and intense emotion. Spectators exited the Barbican, exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster Pappano had taken them on, with Korsakov’s legendary melodies stuck firmly in their heads.
Caroline, aged 18
Barbican 15th December 2010
London Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Antonio Pappano with Midori, violin.
Ligeti Concert Românesc
Bruch Violin Concerto No 1
credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders