tue 24/11/2020

London Symphony Orchestra, Hasan, LSO St Luke's review - dances great and small | reviews, news & interviews

London Symphony Orchestra, Hasan, LSO St Luke's review - dances great and small

London Symphony Orchestra, Hasan, LSO St Luke's review - dances great and small

Miniature Strauss followed by a big orchestra for works by Hannah Kendall and Bartók

LSO players preparing for Bartók

Big orchestras to serve the late romantic masterpieces and contemporary blockbusters still aren’t the order of the Covid-era day, even in streamed events, at least not in the UK.

Big orchestras to serve the late romantic masterpieces and contemporary blockbusters still aren’t the order of the Covid-era day, even in streamed events, at least not in the UK. The London Symphony Orchestra is so far unique in bigging up the strings as well as bringing on the full brass and percussion thanks to the unique nature of what was previously its rehearsal space and venue for chamber concerts, LSO St Luke’s.

Both for Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle the other month under chief conductor Rattle – due to be streamed, but not for free – and for his Dance Suite alongside Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers, most of the orchestra could be distanced across the entire floor space with the brass lined up along the balconies either side. For those few of us lucky enough to be admitted and seated centrally upstairs, the antiphony was thrilling. You can now watch the entire thing on YouTube (link below).Kerem HasanPerformance-wise, this curious programme is a mixed bag. Young British conductor Kerem Hasan (pictured above by Marcco Borggreve) doesn’t yet have the personality or the lightness of touch with smaller forces for one of the most delicious gems in the entire orchestral repertoire, Richard Strauss’s Suite drawn from his music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme (originally the Molière adapted by his house poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, thrice mined with or without the opera within, Ariadne auf Naxos).

Here it’s the chain of brilliant solos which allows LSO principals to shine: leader Roman Simović in the polonaise for the tailors visiting Monsieur Jourdain, full of elan and technical difficulties surmounted, pianist Elizabeth Burley parrying virtuosically in the Fencing Master’s routine, cellist Rebecca Gilliver as another Don Quixote eating his sheep in the form of a leg of mutton served up at a quotation-stocked banquet and a whole host of consummate bit-part players. Hannah KendallKendall, born in Wembley of parents from Guyana, is certainly in the spotlight this year. This is the third time over the past few months I’ve caught a performance of The Spark Catchers, inspired by Lemn Sissay’s poem about the women working in the match factory formerly on what is now the Olympic Park. The composer introduces the work eloquently while major rearrangements take place in the hall (pictured above). The dartings around the instruments do catch fire, and the piece is well orchestrated, but the middle section sounds generic and the sparks of interest tend to evaporate rather quickly.

Certainly the memory of the piece is instantly extinguished by the vibrant contrasts of Bartók’s Dance Suite, with its iridescent colours stretching to two grand pianos (one used by the celesta player for a very brief stretch of the score). Hasan seems more fluent in his command here, the quick changes from lurching rhythms and wildness to the suddenly wistful refrains deftly done, and yes, the brass, lurid trombone glissandi and all, have a ball.

Watch the concert on YouTube

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