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Haydn, Mozart and Tchaikovsky: Soloists / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski (conductor). Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. 01.11.06 (ED)

Haydn Symphony 49 in F minor, “La Passione”
Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K.364

Baiba Skride (violin)
Isabelle van Keulen (viola)
Tchaikovsky Symphony 1 in G minor, “Winter Daydreams”


This concert saw Vladimir Jurowski leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra through a challenging programme of three works, each of which centred on a specific compositional problem.


In some ways Haydn’s “La Passione” symphony is very much a private work, not often enough enjoying public performance – indeed, this was the first time the LPO found it on their music stands – when one considers the merits of the piece. True, it might be Haydn at his most sombre, setting the work almost entirely in F minor and opening with an adagio rather than an allegro movement. Jurowski began the movement at such a slow tempo that it was momentarily touch-and-go whether Haydn’s musical argument would be coherently sustained, but thanks to a sure sense of musical transition coming from Jurowski, the music developed sensitively in terms of line, texture and scale. The second movement continued to bring assured direction from Jurowski, who often allowed the players their own space with the music, but also pounced relentlessly on major emphases thus bringing extra drama to bear on the writing. Careful balancing of sonorities marked out the third movement, with horns, harpsichord continuo and woodwinds registering with understated ease against the often pizzicato deployment of strings. The closing Presto saw a galvanising of thoughts and ideas through urgency of playing that was strongly articulated but never unmusical in its execution.


Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola explores the nature of instrumental range, and how two players can both complement and contrast with one another. Baiba Skride, a violinist whose recordings to date have highly impressed me, was a sympathetic collaborator alongside Isabelle van Keulen. Both sought to bring nuances to their individual solo lines, to show with some subtlety the variations that Mozart draws from the instruments in the first movement. The surface simplicity of the solo writing was enhanced with dexterity and taste by Skride and van Keulen in the second movement, which began almost melancholically on the violin, only to have the shading of passages extended by the viola’s contribution. Inevitably though, just as in the first movement cadenza, a point of equality and seriousness was reached in their interaction that brought profundity to proceedings. The restrained orchestral scene-setting for the foreground activity of the soloists supported the overall mood with clarity and precision. The closing Presto changes the overall mood entirely and is launched in playful vein, with fluidity and unity of purpose binding both soloists parts together. Whilst virtuosity was undeniably on display from all involved, it was refreshingly utilised in Mozart’s service rather than being an end in itself, which can all too often be the case.


Having recently heard a live recording of Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony, the opportunity to hear its audacious predecessor was much to be welcomed, Subtitled “Winter Daydreams” Tchaikovsky explores the nature of form, casting the symphony as an extended tone poem across four thematically related movements. Jurowski’s conception of the work mixed heart-on-sleeve emotion with deeper drama and a clearly thought through sense of structure. The opening Adagio tranquillo must have been the least tranquillo movement one could imagine, such was the strength of gesture and rightly nervous edge that was fostered in the playing. Jurowski’s gift was to make one aware that things of drama might yet happen without fully revealing what they could be. The Adagio cantabile showed with effortless charm the outer emotion of Tchaikovsky, a quality that pervades all his orchestral writing. Rather than giving focus to individual instrumental lines, the trio of oboe, clarinet and bassoon came to the fore over delicately muted strings. The Scherzo carried an element of indifference to begin with, though even this came to make musical sense as Jurowski contrasted this later in the movement with more purposeful direction, thus giving the music variation and flavour, bring out Tchaikovsky’s nod of admiration in Mendelssohn’s direction along the way. The final movement begins ‘Andante lugubre’ and brings to mind the image of a foggy landscape. The sense of premonition from the first movement was present too in Jurowski’s reading, but this was contrasted with the certainty and ebullience he found in the ensuing Allegro maestoso section. Counterpoint plays a large part in the structural relationships, and Jurowski clearly relished this element before leading his forces into a magisterial account youthful musical idealism. Tchaikovsky’s picture postcard scoring of Moscow’s snow covered boulevards was vividly realised with confidence and panache.


The concert was recorded, and  one can hope that any – indeed, why not all – of the performances might be released soon on the LPO record label, such was the quality of playing and interest created by Jurowski’s intelligence of interpretation.


Evan Dickerson


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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)