A concerto, a death, and a practical joker

Even conductors can go sick: yesterday evening's concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall was supposed to be conducted by Daniele Gatti, but owing to illness he was replaced at short notice by Thomas Sanderling. Not that this showed: I don't know whether Sanderling had a chance to rehearse with the orchestra, but the performances certainly didn't seem to suffer as a result of all this.

The main work was the Brahms Second Piano Concerto, played by veteran British pianist John Lill. It's a massive work, and a long one at 50 minutes (though not the longest in the repertory - I imagine the Busoni claims that, at 75 minutes): despite its obvious technical difficulties it's not really a showcase, and Lill didn't fall into the trap of making it one. He gave a reflective performance, with a light and mellifluous touch, leading us clearly through the work's complex structure.

The second half consisted of two popular tone poems by Richard Strauss. Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration) represents the dying moments of an idealist or artist, his suffering, death, and the achievement of his ideals by his soul after his death - heavy stuff, but a luminous and powerful work, its dark moments offset by the glowing ending.

Till Eulenspiegel was a real person - a fourteenth-century rebel and practical jokes who has become a folk legend. Strauss's Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks) is a lively, sparkling and humorous work which (despite initial critical hostility) has become a concert-hall favourite. Both works were given satisfying and warm-hearted performances.

Posted: Thu - March 20, 2008 at 09:46 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM