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Mozart,Shostakovich: LPO / Vladimir Jurowski, Tatiana Monogarova (sop) Sergei Leiferkus (bar) QEH, 18. 2. 2006 (GD)


Mozart: Symphony in 41 in C (Jupiter) K551

: Symphony No 14

Jurowski opened the concert with a 'Jupiter' which was well balanced and very generous with repeats, including a full reprise of the development section in the last movement. Stylistically, this was a combination of old and new - old with its large string compliment and a stately delivery of the opening (hardly 'allegro vivace' ) and new in its deployment of prominent woodwind, brass and hard sticks for the tympani. Jurowski had obviously thought this work through: the andante cantabile never dragged and the string recitative was nicely balanced. The LPO strings, although generally accurate, sometimes lacked the poise and delicacy essential to the piece and the important woodwind contributions did not always blend well enough with the string counterpoint; a strident edge was noticeable in anything louder than a mezzo-forte. The menuetto was suitably swift and tautly phrased but the trio section was let down once again by some over-loud woodwind intonation. The great contrapuntal finale however was mostly a success with all of the work's thematic strands fully audible right up to the triumphant closing fanfares.

The Shostakovich symphony (really a completely original symphonic song cycle) was given an inspired reading. The LPO strings' slight roughness of texture - not wholly suitable for Mozart - was a positive advantage here.  Sergei Leiferkus, who has sung this part on many occasions, gave a predictably authoritative performance but it was the Muscovite soprano, Tatiana Monogarova who proved to be the real revelation. Her vocal sensitivity to every aspect of her part's taxing demands, capped even Galina Vishnevskaya (the work's original soprano soloist) in expressed empathy and committment to Shostakovich's writing. In the Apollinaire setting, Madame, look! Monogarova's percussive and chilling laughter on the words khokhochu, khokhochu became a grim leitmotif (echoed by the xylophone) on the inevitability of death.

The work's eleven settings of poems by Lorca, Apollinaire, Rilke and Kuchelbecker all deal with aspects of death; death as an absolute end (the pessimism of which upset both Stalinist orthodoxy and bourgeois spirituality), death in life (Lorca's depiction of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War), death as incarceration (Apollinaire's A la Santé - In Prison) and self-inflicted death (Suicide also by Apollinaire) are some examples. The final haunting epilogue 'Death is all powerful, she is on watch' from Rilke's Schlußtück captures the whole tone of the work. It is fascinating to hear how the sheer range of textures, harmonies and rhythmic experimentation all perfectly delineate the discursive, aesthetic thrust of the poems. Shostakovich even incorporates a 12-tone chromatic scale in the eerie opening of the Lorca 'De Profundis' and this is echoed in the grotesque bass pizzicato figure in the Apollinaire 'Prison' movement.

Jurowski conducted the work with real empathy and understanding and the LPO strings excelled themselves. I was only slightly disappointed that the cello-viola cross rhythms in the Apollinaire Lorelei setting lacked the grainy percussive effect I remembered from the old Barshai recording the the Moscow Chamber orchestra. The LPO's percussion, a vital part of the work in both its violent interruptions and more intimate configurations were also excellent.


At the close ofthe epilogue's haunting coda, Jurowski gestured for silence (so often resonant in Shostakovich) to delay audience applause. After a long pause, applause did break out but in a muted and hesitant manner: some acknowledgement of such an honest and committed delivery of this protean and fascinating work was still necessary.





Geoff Diggines



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