A piece which was not originally on the schedule, Dvořák's Serenade for Winds in D minor, turned out to be the highlight of a very fine concert. "One of our favorites," Sir Simon Rattle said before leading a performance so elegantly and seamlessly played that it seemed as if the composer had written the music expressly for this particular set of London musicians. The three French horns were superb all the way through – noble, golden, true. The supple woodwinds reveled in tempos that allowed them to reach profound levels of expressivity. The winds all added notes of color and nuance to their phrasing and played with a kind of sad, gentle, consoling beauty that occasionally had them seeming to be nestled into the low strings and the contrabassoon.

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the LSO © Marquee TV
Sir Simon Rattle conducts the LSO
© Marquee TV

It was one of those performances when the sheer physical beauty of the instruments and the sounds they were making became the organic nature of the music itself. There may be one or two moments along the way when Dvořák seems to take a snooze, but the London Symphony Orchestra and Rattle quickly set matters straight.

Ginastera's Variaciones concertantes proceeded with similar sleek and powerful virtuosity; "a little concerto for orchestra," Rattle called it. All it lacked was something seductive that might have been called Latin flair, maybe it needed more fierce savage energy at the end. The French horn variation had a particularly lovely ending, though, and the double bass solo sounded exquisite Britten-ish sighs.

The fifteen minutes of Roberto Gerhard's Dances from Don Quixote, which the conductor had said was "a joy for us to learn," was given a reading of great care in which its dynamic bursts of color and astringent tunes seemed related somehow to the Ginastera which preceded it.

There were no doubts about Dvorak's American Suite. Like the Gerhard, it was making its first appearance on the LSO stage and proved to be music which captures the composer in his reflective post American mood. Whether or not there is anything American in its tunes or attitudes, there were gorgeous things all the way through, a wonderful oboe solo in the second movement, a magical alla pollacca, the orchestra playing even more beautifully than before.

The precisely-judged camerawork roamed unobtrusively over the band, and the sound was startlingly good heard on Spendor's A1 desktops driven by a Rega IO, as if an alchemical reaction with the images were simulating analogue sound.

Perhaps several lines from a message delivered by the new American President at the State Department in Washington, D.C. literally minutes before the concert in London was to start, could serve Rattle and the LSO as well. "We are back," the President said, and "I am looking forward to returning when this auditorium is filled, and no one has to wipe the podium."


This performance was reviewed from the Marquee TV video stream



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