Thursday, 15 November 2012

Review: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall

by Tim MacBain

Vassily Sinaisky
Last month, some of the Sixth Form contingent of Music students went to see the London Philharmonic Orchestra play at the Royal Festival Hall, on the South Bank. Conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, the programme started with Prokofiev Symphony No.1, then ran into Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the solo played by Sol Gabetta, and ended with Sibelius Symphony No.2. Here’s what I thought:

Venue: The Royal Festival Hall is a perfect, but very unforgiving, acoustic. The sound you hear is absolutely crystal clear and very crisp. Therefore, because of this precision, one can focus on any section of the orchestra, for example the timpani, and hear it as if it were playing a solo. This acoustic was especially brilliant for the Cello Concerto. 100/100

Orchestra: With such a venue, the London Phil had a real job to try and overcome such an exposing acoustic. Over the course of the entire concert, I heard only one missed note. Such precision is, of course, what one comes to expect of such a famous orchestra, but it is still breath-taking when heard. However, I thought the brass were not as released as they could have been – I felt the sound was coming through the middle of the stage, rather than from its entirety. 95/100

Sol Gabetta
Soloist: Sol Gabetta was a revelation. Although I felt she needed about a quarter of the first of four movements to warm up into the Concerto, she excelled herself, with control, artistry and beauty flowing from the stage. Her communication with the orchestral cellos when she was playing in unison with them was second to none, and when the audience brought her out for an encore, she showed great skill with a piece that utilised harmonics and even singing over the top of her instrument. It was beautifully eerie, haunting even, and quite stunning. 97.5/100

Conductor/Interpretation: Vassily Sinaisky is a very prestigious conductor, having conducted the BBC Philharmonic, the Moscow Philharmonic, and the Netherlands Philharmonic. His communication with the orchestra was exceptional, and he wasn’t afraid to tell the first violins to play louder – not a bad thing in my book! I can only really comment upon the interpretation of the Prokofiev; as it is one of my set works; I know it fairly well, more than the Elgar, and certainly better than the Sibelius. I didn’t quite agree with some of the tempo choices in Movements II and III – I wanted them to be slower – but the first and fourth movements were very well thought through. 97.5/100

Overall: 97.5/100 I was inordinately impressed by the entire concert. The atmosphere was amazing, with a full house, and all the other elements of the concert were excellent. I’d see them again in a trice!

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