Wednesday 19th November, Royal Festival Hall, London
Under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the London Philharmonic Orchestra last night presented a dazzling and touching program of orchestral favourites. Opening with Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 seemed somewhat unusual – a short orchestral piece might have been preferable before being launched into the full 50-minute concerto – but was a technically astute and musically assured performance on the part of soloist Lars Vogt. Exaggerated left hand flourishes aside, he is a compelling pianist, pushing the second movement scherzo to a brisk tempo and easily matching the orchestral forces. While special mention must be given to the excellent playing of principal cellist Kristina Blaumane in the Andante movement, the orchestra seemed on the whole to still be getting going. Colourful playing in the strings was occasionally marred by intonation troubles in the winds, and dynamic swells in the final movement in particular could have been greater to match Vogt’s stormy performance.
After interval, however, the orchestra came into their own with Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) and R. Strauss’s Don Juan. Nézet-Séguin directed the Schubert with the ease of an old friend, caressing the well-known opening melody and allowing for a comfortable ebb and flow of the music. Here, principal winds came into their own, tossing melodic lines back and forth in the hall’s excellent acoustics. The Strauss, something of an showpiece, was performed with full forces and plenty of excitement. An excellent horn section, coupled with Nézet-Séguin’s brisk tempos, made for a rendition that seemed as much fun for those on stage as in the audience!