LSO / Colin Davis / Anne-Sophie Mutter - Barbican, 10 October 2010
Riccardo Muti's off sick till who knows when. James Levine looked frailer than a baby at Saturday's Wagnerthon. Sir Colin Davis is senior to both but seems, remarkably, in the rudest of health. He scampered up the stage steps, sprang on to the podium with a kittenish leap and carved his baton through the air like an Italian traffic cop. Asked recently what kept him in shape for conducting, he replied "conducting". I believe him.
The LSO responded to his exuberant spirits in kind. The bold primary colours of Dvorák's Violin Concerto pulsed in garish magnificence. Anne-Sophie Mutter managed to play louder than the orchestra, no mean feat with this lot. In a black strapless dress with poppy-strewn hem, bowing elbow awkwardly but characteristically cranked aloft, she powered through the crudely-hewn melody with surprising finesse. Her commitment and the LSO's was perhaps more than this particular work deserves, but it was an exhilarating ride from start to finish.
There was a bit too much more of the same in Janácek's Glagolitic Mass. It could have done with a softer touch here and there, greater clarity in its strange, brash harmonies. The excellent Simon O'Neill seemed luxurious casting in what is essentially a gladiatorial contest between orchestra and tenor, but he wrestled the orchestra to the ground then soared above them in his brief few bars of lyricism. The other soloists, Krassimira Stoyanova, Anna Stephany and Martin Snell were just as terrific, and the London Symphony Chorus made a glorious sound. A pity the Barbican's weedy organ can't match the bone-shaking grandeur of Birmingham Symphony Hall's.