Denis Kozhukhin played the opening flourishes of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto joyously as if he were intoxicated by the wild swirl of notes. Robin Ticciati and the London Philharmonic Orchestra gladly followed pace, the French horns moving right along; it was a flowing, lyrical reading as much as a purely majestic one, it proceeded with Beethoven's unique leonine stride, the march had a light military flair and whenever Kozhukhin played, it was relaxed and broad. The young Russian virtuoso loved rolling through the runs, infusing them with exceptional left-hand clarity. The performance overall was suffused by a lithe romantic warmth, the easy movement covering the structural formalities to tell Beethoven's spellbinding story. Kozhukhin played the rising trills in the Adagio as if he were listening to some inner truth, and made the transition to the Rondo as smooth as can be while Ticciati and the Orchestra found just the right tempo and together they went rollicking away.

Denis Kozhukhin and the London Philharmonic Orchestra
© London Philharmonic Orchestra

Coming in at approximately half the length of the Emperor, Sibelius' Seventh Symphony inhabits an endlessly inventive, evolving and self-referential universe whose genius is that every performance must create the one-movement organism anew, making it sound fresh in the process, however it is played. Ticciati set a reflective course, the big surges were smoothed out and transformed into the composer's familiar landscape,. The brass were superb, the trombones singing out their big themes more directly and less bombastically than can be the case, and the big orchestral tuttis cushioned with lots of rich deep bass and a slight softening on big downbeats; the horns emerged from the unusually transparent harmonic fogs with a serenity that added to the cumulative power of the performance.

Robin Ticciati conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra
© London Philharmonic Orchestra

The concert belonged to the new genre of socially-distanced performances without audiences where the performers are learning to turn what are essentially dress rehearsals into something approximating the real thing, or perhaps something new; in some cases, as here, it's as if they were playing for themselves. Without an audience to respond to, the musicians stepped up the intensity of their communication. At the end of both performances it was telling that the orchestra broke into applause.

The camerawork played a key role, constantly in motion from an intriguing variety of angles, interested in what was going on, not necessarily in any linear sort of way, enough to take a look at the keys during one of Beethoven's magical half-tone passages. It might have been distracting except that it perfectly complemented the two relatively slow-moving pieces and enhanced the sound as well as the music.


This performance was reviewed from the video stream on Marquee TV

*****