Beethoven and Mahler

Yesterday evening at the Royal Festival Hall the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach performed Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto and Mahler's 4th Symphony.

The soloist in the Beethoven was Richard Goode. The work itself, composed in 1801, stands on the bridge between the Classical concerto - polite, formally constructed - and the swashbuckling Romantic concerto: you can hear echoes of Mozart and pre-echoes of Chopin. As he did with the symphony format, Beethoven shook up the concerto and opened the way for the next hundred and more years - Chopin through to Rachmaninov and Busoni.

The work is dramatic, though ending with a light touch and with some magical quiet sections (though the beginning of the slow movement was marred by an obbligato from some idiot's phone). Goode's performance had an easy mastery that encompassed the work's wide dramatic range.

Mahler's 4th Symphony is lighter in touch than his others, requiring a moderate-sized orchestra and running a short (for Mahler) 55 minutes. On the surface it seems a happy work but there is a darker undertow: the final movement is a setting of one of the poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Mahler had already set some of the songs from this German folk collection) which purports to describe a happy child in Heaven - though one in which innocent lambs and oxen are cheerfully slaughtered. Marisol Montalvo sang the soprano part in this movement, and the entire performance threaded its way through Mahler's intricacies in an involving way.

Normally I sit in the stalls: on this occasion I was about half-way up the balcony: a much more severe test for the new acoustics. The sound up there used to be boxy and restricted: now it has an attractive 'bloom' and warmth without losing fine detail. Only the singer seemed a little too quiet; the orchestra sounded excellent - the acousticians have done a marvellous job and, dare I say it, the sound is almost as good as in the stalls (though they have more leg-room and a better class of mobile phones).

Posted: Thu - November 29, 2007 at 09:43 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM