More reviews from US tour December 2011

The London Philharmonic Orchestra spent last week touring in the US, performing in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and at New York’s Carnegie Hall under conductor Vladimir Jurowski with soloists Janine Jansen and Emanuel Ax.

7 December 2011, Carnegie Hall, New York – Vladimir Jurowski / Janine Jansen (Pintcher, Mozart, Brahms):
‘The orchestra brought dusky, rich and full-bodied sound to a spacious, majestic account of the piece [Brahms 4] … The orchestra played brilliantly.’
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

‘Jurowski managed his resources, and the symphony’s pacing, masterfully and to tremendous effect … The audience ate it up in big gulping spoonfuls, standing and creating a commotion for several extended bows.’
Brad Hill, Huffington Post

8 December 2011, Carnegie Hall, New York – Vladimir Jurowski / Emanuel Ax (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky):
‘Mr. Jurowski obviously is a great fan of the rarely-played piece [Manfred Symphony]. He took the orchestra through its paces, never exaggerating or letting down the guard even in some of the filling … Mr. Jurowski always knows what he is doing.’
Harry Rolnick,

‘Under Mr. Jurowski’s baton, the LPO gathered itself for the leap into the finale. Again, Mr. Ax proved his mastery of every technical challenge thrown at the soloist. This was a technical, yet thrilling performance of Beethoven’s mightiest concerto.’
Paul Pelkonen, Superconductor blog

See previous reviews from the tour
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2 Responses to More reviews from US tour December 2011

  1. […] previous reviews from the tour here and here Follow us on Twitter: @LPOrchestra Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. Jurowski and London Philharmonic Orchestra Get the Better of Noise

    December 8th is a holiday for college students in Bulgaria; and for their teachers for that matter. Being away from home, I indulged myself with a concert in Carnegie Hall. Vladimir Jurowski, the fine Russian-German master of the stand whom I had not heard live before, was to conduct London Philharmonic Orchestra. The program on his second-day appearance seemed more tedious, putting together Beethoven’s shiny (with wear) 5th piano concerto (L’empereur) with Tchaikovsky’s Manfred, known as a pompous and amorphous symphonic piece. Add to it Emanuel Ax on the piano and you’d better be prepared for a night of undeceived great expectations. Which is fine for a gala, as far as I was concerned. So we all switched off docilely our i and non-I phones and tuned in for music with a difference.
    To my surprise, the first thing I heard when applause lulled, was an impossible noise of supposedly electronic breed coming from behind. The impression was of a smuggled slumbering device with its volume on max or of an open remote microphone amplified to distortion. The sensation was somewhat spooky as the ushers’ demeanor emitted total ignorance of any impropriety. But if they had a reason to pretend, why should the listeners do so? My vain attempts to catch a sympathetic glance remained entirely solo. So it was me, not the hall or the audience? Luckily, a woman bravely rose and headed for the authorities in their red attires. They started nodding. Yet nothing ensued: the noise kept tainting the music, as if an aesthetic terrorist had smuggled an instrument of sonic torture, only to be ignored by the proud audience. I was not accustomed to such solemn serenity: neither in my country nor in the European concert halls I know, would such awkwardness be blown over with a few dismayed looks . Or am I wrong and the classical music listeners everywhere are already tamed to put up with the electronic cloud of any kind, so they refrain from objections even in their own sanctuaries? And yet, were they really able to disregard such a blow?
    Curiously enough, the electronic noise from behind was ruining yet revealing some hidden aspects of Beethoven’s masterpiece. Such pieces are polished to the utmost by so many positing performances that today one hardly expects to hear more than an approximation to the already crystallized perfection. Hits like L’empereur are wary of novelties. The closer a performance is to the model molded by a number of classic interpretations, the better it counts. My model, shaped by Rubinstein and Kempff, and informed by Arrau and Gould, was accomplished by Zimerman and Perahia. But what Ax did was so radically in the vein of my expectations that it surpassed them entirely.
    To begin with, I am not a big Ax’s fan. Funnily, it so happens that I listen to him every time I come to New York. The last time was in November 2008 when he played with Yefim Bronfman. The reviews were good then but I felt myself unrippled. This time, as if contaminated by the electronic white noise, Ax churned out the repetitive, mechanical wrong side of Beethoven’s work. I am not sure Mr. Ax did it on purpose; he was, rather, pursuing a clear-cut precision without excess or zeal, very much in the logic of perfection without originality. It had nothing to do with the virtuoso approach of, say, Albrecht Mayer, who, a week earlier, had given a voluptuous performance counting exquisitely on his insatiate tone, not without a pinch of regret, though, that neither Mozart nor Bach had put a few more notes in their works. Emanuel Ax’s virtuosity was of a different class: nothing showy or pretentious in it. However, the effect was rather puzzling as the ease turned into volatility of a detached and distant interpretation. I feel tempted to imagine a deconstructing Ax who implies that there is no other option left with such overdone classics than to play them perfectly but from a distance: a musical version of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt «which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer.» By the way, Mr. Ax’s most recent quests in contemporary or chamber music might justify such a wild guess: Emanuel Ax in the role of Maurizio Cattelan from Guggenheim subverting the very possibility for authentic identification with himself playing Beethoven today. However, the zealous welcome he received for his alienated performance proved that to impute such intentions would be an over-interpreting wishful thinking. I still prefer it, though. At least it was dovetailing much better with the DJ noise from above and behind.
    There were many of us in the intermission who protested, so I did not even think the noise would still be there at the beginning of the second part. But it was. Luckily, now it was Jurowski’s moment of glory and he picked it up entirely, not allowing anything to bar the way to his tremendous success. To be sure, he had Tchaikovsky on his side as Manfred commences in such a powerful way, and remains on this high pitch for quite some time, that we finally forgot about the misfortunate circumstances.
    The first impression of a smashing sound was fast upgraded by the sensation of its color, depth, and light without sharpness, as if it was flowing in round tubes without a hint of halogen. After the first part a man behind concluded «Mother Russia!», probably influenced by the program, also making the case for the Russian character of the symphony.
    The way I heard it was a bit different. I think what Jurowski was after by playing it like a tone poem (with an emphasis on the tone rather than on the narrative or description) was to squeeze out of it a sense rather than a sentiment. By taking away the mellowness of the melodramatic stereotype fastened on Tchaikovsky’s music, he restored its dramatic stature. True, there were ballet traces left and also vestiges of Orthodox chants. Yet Jurowski managed to turn the panting excitement of Tchaikovsky’s idiom into deep breathing. The far end of this interpretation was to drag out the genius sunken in his Russianness and to re-establish him as a world composer of uncompromised greatness, even if bits of his peculiarity and uniqueness were to be sacrificed. The risk was worth taking as it awakened unexpected anticipations of Petrushka’s wise naiveté in the Scherzo or of Shostakovich’s comprehensiveness in the entire structure of the piece. With its power and control, with its bold attacks against the strings, with the wild change of timbres and colors, Jurowski and his mighty orchestra managed to deliver a Scythian, savage, indecorous ecstasy, well surpassing Berlioz’s bacchanalia, which would seem quite rondolette in comparison. Thus conductor and orchestra removed the rabble and preserved the rebellious Romantic incentive. Despite the shared organ in the last part Jurowski purged away the Saint-Saëns-like heavy rock tribalism and made a Tchaikovsky singing the greatness and height of the human race.
    The final part was particularly telling in this respect as only now the conductor let nostalgia in; only now did he allow Tchaikovsky’s sadness to rise up to a Chekhov-like melancholy, aware of the sweet absurdity of being.
    Jurowski started playing Manfred in an unexpectedly manly manner only to end it up in tune with the happy grief of maternity as an epitome of humanity. No trace of alien noises was left. Jurowski definitely outdid them all.


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