Midori/LSO/Harding - Barbican, 3 and 6 April 2008
There's no doubt that Midori is a fantastic ambassador for the violin, for classical music, for the arts generally. As a performer, I'm less convinced. Midori's technical control is impeccable, but in both the Tchaikovsky concerto of the first night and the Britten of the second, it smothered any spontaneity. The jarring brutality superimposed on the finale of the Tchaikovsky was no substitute. Elsewhere, Midori's self-effacing charm ultimately frustrated - it's not enough just to play louder than the rest of the guys. I longed for a bit of her character to peep through.
The first concert's closer, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, was a test the LSO passed with flying colours. All soloists, especially the horn and flute, were superb. Daniel Harding sustained the narrative drive and vitality without compromising the rich tapestry of orchestral texture. He's a storyteller, for me consistently impressive in opera if more varied elsewhere, and this is the sort of thing that shows him at his best.
The second concert ended with a curiously deflated reading of Brahms' 2nd Symphony. Recalling Harding's idiosyncratic and rather wonderful Brahms 4 here with the LSO a couple of years ago, I'd hoped for the same sort of verve and clarity. It wasn't laden with the sort of dull gravitas that so often makes Brahms a bore, but it hardly sparkled either, meandering shapelessly along. Rather like Harding's mismatched suit, with its green-black jacket and red-black trousers (yes, black comes in different shades) it passed muster at a glance, but the parts didn't quite add up to a satisfying whole.
Slipped unexpectedly in front of the first concert was a new five minute piece by Edward Rushton called Everything goes so Fast. Why the LSO don't pre-announce their new music 'extras' or include them in the concert programme is beyond me. It confuses the audience, denies young composers valuable publicity, and, worst, makes it look as if the LSO is ashamed to be connected with the work it performs. Big mistake. Anyway, the idea in this particular piece, a process of textural decay, seemed too slender to sustain a full five minutes' exploration, so subtle that it was almost imperceptible, and undermined rather than underlined by the rhythmic monotony. Perhaps it looked better on paper. To the ear it sounded more like a work in progress than the finished article.