London Philharmonic Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Nicholas Angelich - Royal Festival Hall;
'Night Shift' - Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Vladimir Jurowski - Queen Elizabeth Hall, 19 January 2011
It's not often you get the chance to fit in two concerts on one night. Thanks to the LPO's 20 minute overrun I almost didn't. Luckily the OAE are equally tardy types, so I was able to hotfoot it from Mahler 5 in the Royal Festival Hall to Todtenfeier next door with seconds to spare.
The overhyped Yannick Nézet-Séguin steered the LPO through the Fifth in clean-limbed and typically hyper-kinetic style. But the pixie maestro's high-voltage approach grabs the music and the audience by the throat, allowing no repose. It's all release and no tension, and it failed to touch me.
At least he balanced his vast forces with skill. In the Emperor Concerto which began the evening, the first violins loudly dominated throughout. The ponderous soloist, Nicholas Angelich, lacked the brilliance and assertiveness of touch to put up a fight. Beethoven is never as easy as you think.
Death with Vlad was much more fun. The OAE's late-start Night Shift concerts are designed to be more informal than the regular concert experience for a start. Even though most people sit there quietly and don't take advantage of the permission to bring drinks in or wander in and out, the very fact of knowing you could if you wanted to makes for a relaxed atmosphere. And no coughing! A first.
All I will say of Mahler's Todtenfeier on gut strings and olde Vienna horns is that I'm glad I had the chance to hear it tackled with such skill and enthusiasm. Perhaps my ears have been over-conditioned by modern instruments, but it just sounded wrong. Interesting, but wrong, like a cucumber sandwich made with wholemeal bread. Liszt's Les Préludes on the other hand was a revelation, and Jurowski's introductory remarks very helpful in understanding what he was aiming for in terms of mood and colour.