LSO / Gergiev - Barbican, 5 June 2008
Philharmonia / Dudamel / Shaham - Royal Festival Hall, 8 June 2008
When I started this blog I promised myself I'd write about every performance I attended. Time has a way of defeating the best of intentions, but in the spirit of completeness I'll just catch up briefly on this pair of baffling performances from two of the most idiosyncratic conductors around.
You can't accuse Valery Gergiev of inconsistency. For this last concert in his Gergiev's Mahler™ cycle with the LSO, the Ninth Symphony coupled with the Adagio from the unfinished Tenth, he blistered forward with the same seat-of-the-pants drive he's displayed throughout the series.
I'm not sure adagios are meant to be that reckless, ländlers that turbulent, but it's undeniably riveting stuff. Lest anyone raise the old no-rehearsal issue, a scattering of precision-schooled climaxes proved that the requisite homework had been completed.
It's music making that lives in the moment, it speaks to the heart rather than the head, and standing back and thinking too hard might have highlighted some curiously back-to-front orchestral balance in places, the lack of measure in tempos. Bizarre but thrilling, and rapturously received by an exceptionally attentive and well-behaved audience. And congratulations to the LSO for (literally) sweating it out in the sub-tropical temperatures of the apparently non-airconditioned Barbican Hall.
And if anyone was going to top that, it would have to be Gustavo Dudamel. He whizzed the Philharmonia through Smetana's Overture to The Bartered Bride, found the perfect partner for Dvorak's Violin Concerto in the exuberant but lyrical Gil Shaham, and finished up in blockbuster style with Tchaikovsky's Fifth.
When a performance is delivered with such rampant joy in music making, it's impossible to criticise. Dudamel jiggles like a battery-operated muppet, his full-body conducting channelling every rhythm, his woefully tuneless bathtub singalong uninhibited in its madness.
Yet it's no sideshow act - the Philharmonia played with flair and precision, their characteristic lush, warm string sound the base of perfectly balanced textures. And there was no lack of thoughtfulness in the repose of the Dvorak Adagio or the grace of the Tchaikovsky Valse.
A truly special performance that left every single member of the audience with a smile on their face - and how many times does that happen?