Mutter, London Symphony Orchestra, Previn, Barbican Hall | Classical music reviews, news & interviews
Mutter, London Symphony Orchestra, Previn, Barbican Hall
Familiar musical friends deliver some unfamiliar new American music from Harbison and Previn
It’s over 30 years since André Previn left his post as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. But once you’re part of the LSO’s treasured ‘family of artists’, the orchestra never lets go, year upon year inviting you back for Christmas, New Year, weddings, bar mitzvahs, any occasion going. The same with the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter – briefly in the last decade Previn’s fifth wife, though they share the same platform with just as much ease now that they’re divorced.
Sunday’s unusually diverting concert formed part of the LSO’s "Artist Portrait" of Mutter: a portrait hardly required in one sense, for we all know what she looks and sounds like, and have so for decades. It’s easy enough to argue against the LSO’s continued cosiness with their ‘family of artists’ – what about the excitement of new blood? But aside from their artistry, big names bring the big audiences that every orchestra needs, even the comparatively well-endowed LSO.
The heart of Previn's music remains warm, pensive, and eloquently European
And along with trotting warhorses the LSO’s family do sometimes bring unusual repertoire. Without Previn’s advocacy, when we would we have heard the intriguing and entertaining Third Symphony of John Harbison? An American eclectic approaching his mid 70s, Harbison has so far managed to win the Pulitzer Prize for music (1987), write five symphonies, and make operas from The Great Gatsby and The Winter’s Tale without raising an eyebrow in Britain, let alone making a dent.
The symphony (dated 1990) began with descending cadences suggesting it was reaching its end – a very Haydn-esque joke. Other references and sounds in its 25-minute journey took us far beyond Haydn’s ken. Jazz wandered in; Sibelius too; plus hammered grimaces, snake-charming winds, and the semi-pitched clunks of the lujon, a percussion instrument dreamed up by the Modern Jazz Quartet’s John Lewis. The five linked sections’ block construction restricted the symphony’s momentum. But nothing lessened its imaginative textures, technical finish (often the mark of a Walter Piston pupil), or the intriguing push-and-pull between forces trying to end the work’s argument and those trying to push it forward.
Share this article
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more Classical music
German ambient music and two discs of 20th century symphonies
Premiere of Jonathan Dove's 'A Brief History of Creation' enchants
Birds, Messiaen and a much-loved artistic director dazzle from dawn to midnight
Transcendent slow movements, but questions remain
Glasgow's frenetic pre-summer classical bash just gets bigger and better
Siberian piano music, Gershwin's greatest hits and a starrily cast light opera
Relics brought to life in the Museum of Childhood
A top Turkish orchestra and a legendary native pianist do their great city proud
Aldeburgh Festival opens with a ravishing night of music and physical theatre
A soundtrack for juggling, Gallic eccentricity and the return of Pittsburgh's finest
An exceptional recital, combining symphonic weight with chamber intimacy
The native greats illuminated in their homeland's glorious capital