Grieg – Piano Concerto, Holst – The Planets
London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus
Tonight's concert started with a performance from the 'Sound Adventures' programme, a short piece by Anna Meredith called Noisy. Sound Adventures provides an opportunity for budding composers to compose music for a full professional orchestra. On this performance it is easy to see Ms Meredith's career growing stronger. The piece – full of energy and obviously fun to play – was slightly bitty but very exciting and cleverly frenetic. In many ways it set the tone for the famous Jupiter, which was to come in the second half.
Then it was on to the main programme, and the Grieg Piano Concerto. The soloist, Lars Vogt, played each section energetically and with versatility. The first movement was an ebb and flow, partly frantic and partly thoughtful. The piano seemed almost small in the passages that allowed Mr Vogt to show the instrument – and himself – in the best possible light. The second movement, beginning with a yearning and mellow string melody, seemed to hark back to a lost golden age, whilst the entire piece was evocative of the pine forests and clear mountain streams of Grieg's native Norway. Although there was the occasional loss of tempo, on the whole the piano concerto captivated its audience from start to finish, and seems deserving of its tag as one of the most popular piano concerti of all time.
The Planets was very different, but equally captivating. Each movement possessed its own distinctive character, but at the same time they all managed to convey an 'otherworldly' feel. The piece was a prime example of music's great ability to capture the emotional essence of a subject. In Mars, the volume produced by the orchestra was even more phenomenal than the 8 double basses, 7 percussionists and 7 french horns might have suggested. The movement was menacing, invoking images both of war and of subterfuge. Mercury was impishly played, and the instruments and tempo were used in an innovative fashion. Saturn, apparently Holst's favourite movement, gave off an almost Dickensian air of the fateful and unforgiving march of time. By comparison, the long diminuendo and ethereal voices at the end of Neptune left a sense of mystery unresolved.
The Barbican extended a welcome to all, with the cheapest tickets at a mere £6. For anyone who went along, they represented superb value. This concert, performed with the usual panache by the LSO and with understated conducting from Richard Hickox, was a delight to experience.
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