A nicely filmed and produced online performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and their Principal Conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, were on lively form in an eclectic programme from Bach to Elena Kats-Chernin whose Third Piano Concerto was given its European premiere.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts the LPO © London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski conducts the LPO
© London Philharmonic Orchestra

Bach's endlessly rich Orchestral Suite no. 1 opened proceedings in pert fashion. The scaled back orchestra had chamber music crispness and transparency. Nothing sounded laboured or rushed, so that all the intricacy of orchestration could be heard and the dancelike qualities were fully to the fore.

Elena Kats-Chernin is a name not overly familiar in this country, but her most familiar work is the music to the ballet Wild Swans. Born in the Soviet Union in 1957, she has lived in Australia since the early 1990s. Her output is extensive across all forms and the Piano Concerto no. 3 “Lebewohl” was written and first performed in Brisbane in 2018. Lebewohl, meaning farewell in German, is a work that charts the imagined process of loss and grief that Bach must have experienced with the loss of his wife Maria Barbara and three of their children. The work is in five movements the first of which shows the rawness of loss and various stages of grief are explored in the four remaining movements.

Alexandra Silocea © London Philharmonic Orchestra
Alexandra Silocea
© London Philharmonic Orchestra

The musical style is tonal with elements of minimalism and the piano writing is grateful and serving of the music and not the performer's technique. Alexandra Silocea gave what sounded like a completely authentic and committed performance. The two central slow movements both had touching moments, the second having a particularly affecting principal theme and atmosphere. It is an attractive, varied and effective work that certainly deserves to picked up by other soloists and orchestras.

George Enescu is a composer much admired and championed by Jurowski. He deserves more than the tiny corner of the classical concert repertoire than the occasional out of his Romanian Rhapsody no. 1 and his opera Oedipe. The two works on offer tonight certainly showed the composer at his most inspired and concise.

Vladimir Jurowski and Alexandra Silocea © London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski and Alexandra Silocea
© London Philharmonic Orchestra

The Decet for winds is an early work from 1906 that has a veiled tone and lushness of orchestration. The gentle first movements had a strange otherworldly Art Nouveau atmosphere. Only the odd moment of darkness interrupted its stately flow. Very polished playing from the double quintet of woodwind players produced the richness required here. The second movement moves away from Straussian harmonies to more folk-inflected and spicy harmonies. The opening passage has a strange eerie quality which is quickly dispelled by a lively central section. The final section combines the themes presented in an ingenious way. The lively finale is the most progressive of the movements in its tonal goal and structure. Jurowski held this performance together expertly, making sure the contrapuntal threads were revealed.

Enescu wrote his Chamber Symphony in 1954 shortly before a stroke ended his professional life. It is written for a group of twelve players including piano and has a harmonic language which can be seen to relate to the Decet written nearly 50 years earlier. However, by then composer had a much looser relationship with tonality. It is a work of great mystery and beauty. Its quality was much appreciated in the years after its first performance. In one movement the structure divides into the usual symphonic movement sections. Jurowski and the LPO certainly gave a most compelling, faultless performance. A work not known to many, but as persuasively presented here, unfairly so.


This performance was reviewed from the video stream on Marquee TV

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