sun 21/07/2024

Soltani, LPO, Gardner, RFH review – disciplined and dynamic accounts | reviews, news & interviews

Soltani, LPO, Gardner, RFH review – disciplined and dynamic accounts

Soltani, LPO, Gardner, RFH review – disciplined and dynamic accounts

Elegant Elgar, keenly focussed but sometimes lacking nuance

Kian Soltani: a rich and even soundJuventino Mateo

No successor has yet been named to Vladimir Jurowski as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic, so it is interesting to note that Edward Gardner is making several appearances with the orchestra this season. The two conductors are similar in their dynamic approach and brisk, efficient tempos.

But where Jurowski focuses on detail, drawing exceptional clarity from the ensemble, Gardner seems more impulsive, structuring the music with similar care, but punctuating to greater dramatic effect with surprisingly emphatic tuttis. This concert, of Beethoven, Elgar and Mahler, demonstrated an impressive ability to energise and enliven familiar repertoire, the Mahler in particular delivering a visceral impact.

The concert also introduced a soloist still in his mid-20s alongside the LPO, Austrian-Persian cellist Kian Soltani. His playing is precise and secure, with particularly fine tonal control. His vibrato is indicative – absolutely even and applied continuously, the resulting tone focused and direct, but lacking in nuance. That made for a slightly detached reading of the Elgar Cello Concerto, though that might be a blessing, given how often the work is presented at the other extreme, as an indulgent display of emotion.

Edward GardnerNeither Soltani nor Gardner deprived the music of shape or colour, with strong timbral contrasts between themes from both cello and orchestra. Soltani also pulled around the even semiquavers of the Scherzo theme, almost to the point of unrecognisably, but by doing it exactly the same way every time, made even that sound uniform. The big themes felt a little lacking in expression, for Soltani’s disciplined articulation and narrow tone – or perhaps he was just letting the music speak for itself? But there were many moments of magic too, like the quiet before the storm, just before the coda of the last movement, the sense of stillness here conjured by the cellist was ideal. An unusual reading, but much of it satisfying – as was Soltani’s encore, a composition of his own, drawing on his Persian roots and channelling the sound of the oud.

Gardner (pictured above by Benjamin Ealovega) opened the concert with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. A much larger string section than Beethoven is usually afforded gave real weight to the opening downbow chords, and Gardner was able to maintain that solemn, imperious mood throughout, despite some poor tonal control from the horns. In the second half, Mahler’s First Symphony was given in a similarly bold and forthright account. Gardner’s disciplined tempos here seemed a little restrictive for the push and pull of Mahler’s ever-flexible phrasing, but the payoff was a keen sense of the music’s structure. In the tuttis, the brass sometimes sounded as if they were uncomfortable with Gardner’s brisk tempos, but they always delivered the clean, angular articulations he sought. The result was an impressively dynamic account, but suitably weighty, and never lacking drama or atmosphere.   



It was the Overture to Egmont not 'Leonore' - whichever of the 3 Leonoras to which he might be wrongly referring!

Changed, with thanks for the correction.

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