London Philharmonic Orchestra * * * *
at Symphony Hall
Review by Norman Stinchcombe
This concert was originally publicized as "Masur conducts Brahms" which, despite the hopes of Symphony Hall’s marketing department, was not a prospect to stir the blood.
Kurt Masur is the quintessential Kapellmeister – safe, steady, uncontroversial and a trifle dull.
His indisposition meant that instead the conductor was the young Russian Vladimir Jurowski, who will succeed Masur at the helm of the LPO in September.
Having seen his fierce and febrile Tchaikovsky "Pathetique" with this orchestra two years ago – a performance very much in the Mravrinsky mould – I looked forward to their encounter with Brahms’ first symphony. I was not disappointed.
The symphony’s opening, with pounding timpani and throbbing strings, is often taken too slowly, making it sound enervated rather than threatening.
Jurowski’s quicker tempo imbued it with drive and momentum – ready to meet the ensuing musical battle head on. And a mighty conflict it was too so that the calm and lyricism of the two inner movements felt as is they had been earned.
Jurowski refused to make a meal of the great C major melody in the finale but the flowing speed did not vitiate its grandeur and the finale peroration was really played "con brio".
Vadim Repin has been eclipsed by his fellow Siberian and friend Maxim Vengerov. Although he lacks Vengerov’s exuberance and platform charisma on purely musical merits there is nothing to choose between them.
His performance of Brahms’ violin concerto kept the perfect equipoise between power and poetry. Repin’s tone is full and rounded but never over-honeyed or cloying. He refined that down to the gentlest whisper for the adagio where, with support from the excellent LPO’s oboe, we had moments of immense musical pathos.