London Philharmonic Orchestra * * * *
at Symphony Hall
Review by Norman Stinchcombe
The finale of Sibelius’s second symphony is perhaps one of the most difficult in the repertoire to bring off successfully.
Without careful handling the first appearance of that spine-tingling pizzicato by the basses can been taken as the beginning of the symphony’s climax. But it isn’t, and Sibelius has more in store for us before he unleashes one of the mightiest of symphonic codas.
The danger is that its effect can be undermined – at worst can seem anti-climactic – if the conductor hasn’t carefully harnessed in the energy for that superb ending.
Most of all it mustn’t seem calculated but as if the music simply has to unfold that way. A tall order but one that Kazushi Ono, a late replacement for the indisposed Emmanuel Krivine, fulfilled.
There is no place for musicians to hide in this symphony. There are so many exposed lines for individual players and sections, but the LPO was never found wanting. This was a performance in which everything was in place: enormous power from the brass, woodwind playing of subtlety and charm supported by a lustrous string sound.
The performance of Brahms Piano Concerto No 2, with soloist Nicholas Angelich, was almost as good, heralded by a finely played and hauntingly romantic solo horn. Angelich delivered the necessary power and ardour in the first two movements but showed a winningly delicate touch in the swooningly romantic slow movement where he was aided by a fulsome contribution from the orchestra’s first cello.
Only in the finale did his playing, and Ono’s conducting, seem a little prosaic and earthbound, lacking the lively wit, lightness of touch and sheer joie de vivre that Brahms’s "grazioso" marking surely indicates.