mon 14/06/2021

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - songs and dances in a room with an audience | reviews, news & interviews

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - songs and dances in a room with an audience

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - songs and dances in a room with an audience

No doubt about the delight in offering a lively programme in a hall peppered with punters

A shout-out for a live audience in the Barbican HallAll images by Mark Allan for the LSO

It began with a sense of wonder, not just from the Barbican's socially distanced audience but also from the stage, at “that sound you make with your hands”, as Simon Rattle put it in what he said was a novelty speech before a performance.

What followed was a celebration – reacquaintance with the instruments of the orchestra in Britten’s brilliant set of variations and a fugue on a Purcell theme, wistful beauty from Fauré, rumbustiousness with a dash of poignancy from Dvořák.

Perhaps The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra should be renamed Everyone’s Guide to Orchestral Delights, which come thick and fast in Britten’s not so mini masterpiece. What a contrast to the dying fall of the equally magnificent Violin Concerto, one of three works to end quietly in the last LSO concert to a Barbican audience back on 15 March 2020 (Antonio Pappano's staggering interpretation of Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony can now be caught on CD with the Fourth - superlative testament to the right choice of Rattle's eventual successor). What a wonder, too, on this occasion to see seven percussionists, five double basses...

Continuity was the name of the game here, with razor-sharp segues as the composer does sleight-of-hand colour changes. We were reminded how it’s not just the showing-off of the instruments nominally represented, as in the woodwind flecks which tease the furtively upward-leaping double basses and get them all excited. And visually you see how much pleasure is allowed the players in watching their colleagues when they’re not participating: co-principal oboe Olivier Stankiewicz, for instance, looked in a state of perpetual delight – but also got a solo more rewarding than any he’d had in the equally dazzling Europe Day Concert on 9 May, where the cor anglais (Lorraine Hart) had more limelight. Simon Rattle and the LSODebussy’s opera always shines the brightest when it comes to Maeterlinck’s mystery-drenched love-triangle drama Pelléeas et Mélisande, but Sibelius and Fauré also wrote utterly distinctive incidental music for it. Bittersweet ravishment, an LSO/Rattle speciality, bathed Fauré's Prelude to Act 1 in a radiant light – will anyone ever complain about the Barbican as too inadequate concert hall again? – and the spinning weave of the second number was exquisitely deft.

The only questions of the performance (I was present at the 3.30pm event – another followed at 6.30) were whether we need all eight of Dvořák’s first set of Slavonic Dances (Op. 46) – I’d incline to four, maximum five selected from both sequences – and whether an outdoor concert might have brought a more unbuttoned interpretation. Much of the lilt and all of the love that has to be lavished on suave counterpoint were there, and more refined passages like those in No. 3, the A flat major walking tune that suddenly bursts into rumbustiousness, and the perky canons of No 7 in C minor, came off best. But I’m not complaining: the sumptuous feast and the space to move to it were reward enough. Na zdraví!

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