The London Philharmonic Orchestra's setup was eye-catching. Surveying clockwise: Basses, 1st Violins, Cellos, Violas, 2nd Violins. And percussion? Well, initially, nowhere. Magnus Lindberg's 2002 Chorale is too liquid a piece to benefit from sudden sounds. I draw this analogy from Stephen Johnson's fine programme note in which he parallels Johann Rudolf Ahle's 1662 featured chorale melody, “Es ist genug” (It is enough) with a rock on the shore and Lindberg's treatment of it with tides which alternately hide and reveal it. The melody is ideally chosen for detectability: discounting repeats, it has only five phrases, the longest with nine notes and the shortest with four. Its raised 4th note excites the ear; many already know the melody from Bach's cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerword or Berg's 1935 Violin Concerto.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja © Marco Borggreve
Patricia Kopatchinskaja
© Marco Borggreve
I loved Lindberg's shimmering, quiet riot which felt like visiting a familiar location to discover everyone speaking an unfamiliar language. Balance of its thick textures was finely tuned, the dense string chords sounding particularly gripping. Much of the shimmering came courtesy of the brass who also engaged in some captivating bell notes. There was one heroically high moment for solo horn, soon joined by four august comrades. Given the brevity of many phrases, control of dynamics was impressive. As Johnson promised in his programme note, “the result is a short piece which says a good deal on first hearing, and reveals still more with time.”

 In a floor-length white dress, barefoot and carrying her violin aloft, Patricia Kopatchinskaja seemed to glide onto the stage. Swaying along with the orchestral introduction to Bartók's 1938 Violin Concerto no. 2, she suggested that this was to be an engaged and engaging performance. She explored her square metre of stage completely, especially when handing the musical baton to the leader or conductor. It was possibly the most rock and roll concerto performance I can recall. This feeling was amplified by what heavy metal players would call the “shredding” nature of some of the cadenzas, particularly towards the end of the opening Allegro non troppo.

That said, I should stress that many sections of the solo part were delivered intentionally quietly and Jurowksi listened and worked hard to ensure balance. As the work contains so many tempo changes this seemed his busiest item in the programme. The musical language of the violin part was also very varied, raging from folky pentatonic gestures to angular chromatic passages.

The central Andante tranquilo also features a folk music vs. chromatic contrast. One lively burst of chromaticism from Kopatchinskaja was reminiscent of the sound of vexed wasps. Following the “shredding” at the end of the closing Allegro molto there was a huge outburst of applause for this work which Kopatchinskaja had truly made her own.

Vladimir Jurowski with the London Philharmonic Orchestra © Richard Cannon
Vladimir Jurowski with the London Philharmonic Orchestra
© Richard Cannon
Beethoven's 1804 Symphony no. 3 in E flat major, “Erioca” occasioned a minimalist turn in Jurowski's conducting; an orchestra of this calibre needn't see a perpetual three-in-the-bar, not even in syncopated passages. Often, a raised hand seemed simply to be saying, “enjoy this moment”. Jurowski cued helpfully in fugato passages but even this seemed very relaxed. Between movements he leant back on the conductor's rail as though encouraging orchestra and audience alike to take their time and settle – the exception being the attacca leap into the Finale.

This was a consummate performance of a work that is now such a classic that it's difficult to put oneself in the shoes of those who thought it incomprehensibly modern. That's not to say that it's without tension and these moments were conveyed very vividly here – twice notably by the horns in the first and third movements. The “period instrument” trumpets added brightness to the warm string sound particularly at the first movement's central peak. There were wonderful solo woodwind contributions, notably Ian Hardwick's oboe, Sue Thomas' flute and Ben Hudson's bassoon.

Music existing in a realm beyond words, it's a rare and lovely thing when a choice phrase clinches for you the nature of a movement's appeal. In his eloquent note, the late Calum MacDonald referred to the slow movement as “an extended funeral march of the darkest hue and most balefully irresistible rhythmic tread”. The wonderful sound of the double basses filled the mournful gap between this Marcia Funèbre's first few paces. The shift to the major, brightened by lovely woodwind lines, was soon replaced by a brow-furrowing fugal passage whose sombre mood was excellently captured.

MacDonald also cited “humour and good fellowship” as heroic qualities, as evidenced in the Scherzo and certainly in the infectious energy communicated here. This mood continued into the Finale in which the playful spirit, not often enough associated with Beethoven was wonderfully transmitted. The audience's response to this imaginative, varied and finely executed programme was sustained and hearty.