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 7,000 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
Cannonades all round as Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture follows Rachmaninov and Stravinsky
Music trumps politics in youthful, even joyous Shostakovich 'Leningrad' Symphony
A second album for Berlin Phil musician will expand the repertoire downwards
Mozart and Mahler at a festival that's about so much more than just star-power
Full orchestral back-up for the charismatic chanteuse in trademark Weill and others
A dazzling contemporary opera, three classical symphonies and piano music from father and daughter
Perfect cello and piano duo spotlights Britten, with eastern liturgical music to follow
Feathery jewels from the pianist, but mixed fortunes for Nielsen’s battle-scarred symphony
Composer-clarinettist Jörg Widmann crowns a strong team in Messiaen's wartime meditation
20th century orchestral concertos in a riot of sophisticated colour from terrific teenagers
Musical youth and experience gather in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes
From Elgar at sea to the Eroica, a special relationship explored