LSO / Andris Nelsons / Viktoria Mullova - Barbican, 30 September 2010
Is there anything Andris Nelsons can't do? The programme wasn't entirely inspiring, there were fallibilities in communication, but even so, his LSO debut wasn't far short of fabulous.
The usual ponderousness was entirely avoided in a lean and muscular Tannhäuser Overture. One of Nelsons' skills is to highlight detail without resorting to affectation, and it serves him well in Wagner. But there were a few dodgy moments. Nelsons' podium calisthenics tend to mask his beat at the very moments it needs to be clearest, and there was a general sense of under-rehearsal. A few bars from the end, the orchestra were left to pick a tempo, and they weren't listening closely enough to each other to make it a unanimous decision.
Viktoria Mullova was the soloist in Prokofiev's second Violin Concerto, the first of several appearances she'll be making this season as the LSO Artist in Residence. It wasn't an auspicious start. She seemed out of sorts from the very beginning, skidding off a string during the unaccompanied (and technically straightforward) introduction. She slogged through it, score at her side, but her dour expression and dogged sawing hinted her heart wasn't wholly in it.
Shostakovich's Fifth isn't one of my own favourites, but it must be popular with the LSO judging by how often it's wheeled out. Nelsons' approach was refreshingly uncynical. He bathed it in vivid, quasi-operatic colours, leashing the orchestra back admirably until the manic explosion of the finale. A few slips along the way did little to diminish the effect.
Incidentally, if you're going to the Barbican in the next few weeks, it might be wise to bring your own sandwiches. The new caterers (installed a couple of weeks ago) seem completely unable to keep up with demand; apparently the old lot took most of the staff with them. This was the sandwich display just half an hour before kick off: