20th century masterpieces
TWO popular early 20th century symphonies and Elgar's haunting cello concerto made up a very satisfying programme for this first visit by the London Philharmonic in over a decade.
Prokofiev could turn his hand to any type of composition. In the productive year of 1917 he composed his Classical symphony. After a snappy opening the music continues in a see-sawing fashion before the exquisite and elegant larghetto, interspersed with serenade- like episodes, leading into the boisterous gavotte. The joyous finale capped an altogether excellent performance by the orchestra.
Elgar's Cello Concerto was the last important work he wrote. It opens with a recitative by the solo cello before the violas introduce the main theme and both the soloist and the orchestra take up the melody and toss it around. Moving to the allegro molto the cello moves both up and down in rapid succession. Here the admirable soloist Sol Gabetta was in her prime, bringing out all the different expressions needed as indeed she did in the heartfelt beauty of the adagio. The rumbustious finale was also a test of her ability and the whole performance, ably supported by the orchestra, was a joy to behold.
Sibelius' 2nd Symphony was finished in 1902 and is sometimes dubbed the "Symphony of Independence". The work grows out of a three-note idea at the beginning and this appears in many forms before the second movement starts with a long pizzicato sequence. The beautiful adagio is a precursor to the stormy finale, where the theme emerges in full splendour on the strings, the brass responding with heroic fanfares before the build-up to the powerful climax.
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There was some incredible playing by all sections of the orchestra in a faultless performance and the excellent conductor Vassily Sinaisky had complete control of both the wonderful music and his talented players.