February 21st, 2015
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London
Despite really enjoying Beethoven, I had a few reservations about last night’s concert being an all-Beethoven affair. I though the performance was sparkling and full of energy, no question about it. Marin Alsop is a striking conducting force, and showed a deep understanding for Beethoven’s works and style. She presided over the podium with an intensity of focus that spurred the London Philharmonic Orchestra to some stunning music.
Opening with the overture to Leonore No. 3, the woodwind played with keen ensemble and sense of colour. However, the balance between strings and the rest of the orchestra was not good in the balcony – every time the brass entered they were drowned out entirely. David Fray’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was refined and well-crafted. His second-movement phrasing was particularly graceful, though there was a tendency to be rather heavy in the fast movements.
Finally came the triumphal Symphony No. 7, which the orchestra played with passion and zeal. Alsop always sat on the faster side of the tempo, pushing the music still faster in the final measures of the Allegro con Brio. By contrast, the second movement Allegretto returned to the minor sound world of the piano concerto, lending weight and rich instrumental colours to its memorable melodies.