tue 23/07/2024

Tchetuev, LPO, Larsen-Maguire, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne review - sunshine by the sea | reviews, news & interviews

Tchetuev, LPO, Larsen-Maguire, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne review - sunshine by the sea

Tchetuev, LPO, Larsen-Maguire, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne review - sunshine by the sea

Recreative energy from a conductor to watch, fantasy from a fine Ukrainian pianist

Catherine Larsen-Maguire: interpretative reachDavid Beecroft

Even with a chill wind blowing from the Sussex Downs, this copper-bottomed Overture-Concerto-Symphony Sunday matinée was guaranteed to entice concert-goers to Eastbourne’s Sunshine Coast, which duly dazzled both outside and inside the hall.

Beethoven’s blazing Egmont Overture, the heady romanticism of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Brahms’ sunny Second Symphony, each with their celebratory finales, proved to be ample fare to warm the cockles of the audience's heart.

This was also a great opportunity to catch the striking talents of conductor Catherine Larsen-Maguire in her debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Her 10 years as principal bassoonist at the Komische Oper in Berlin, having played in many of the world's great orchestras, before taking up the baton in 2012 clearly gave her a rich formative insight from within into what makes an orchestra tick and chime with the podium. Working with luminaries such as John Carewe, George Hurst and Vladimir Jurowski as well as honing her special interest in contemporary music, her progress has clearly been wide-ranging, thorough and impressively fertile. All three performances came charged with recreative energy, flexible tempi, scrupulous balance and interpretative reach.

From the imposing opening chords and tantalising hints of the Egmont overture’s main theme in the brief introduction, it was clear Larsen-Maguire was revving up the tension with the orchestra primed and good to go. Off the leash into the main Allegro we were on course for a lithe and febrile ride to victory with the rest of the programme confidently in intuitive, inspirational hands. Igor TchetuevThe Tchaikovsky concerto brought the second LPO debut of the concert. The Ukrainian pianist Igor Tchetuev (pictured above) has been particularly active with French, Eastern European and Russian orchestras, working with Semyon Bychkov, Valery Gergiev and Neeme Järvi amongst many others and is now midway through recording a complete cycle of the Beethoven Sonatas for the Caro Mitis label. Big-boned rhetoric, a fiery sense of fantasy and playful spontaneity were his touchstones, supported by the orchestra on heat generating powerhouse build-ups to the first movement’s two cadenzas. The opening of the middle movement was graced with the solo flute casting a rapt spell immediately complimented by the soloist, then taken up by the solo cello and oboe. But here the pianist seemed surprisingly reluctant to offer due deference as accompanist, his acute staccato underlay masking the sensitivity of the orchestral soloists. Balance was swiftly restored, however, as they chased each other like Tom and Jerry in the mercurial central section. A rip-roaring Slavonic finale took no hostages to fortune, but characterfully turned every corner without sacrificing everything to virtuosic speed. What an unexpected tonic to hear such renewed engagement and vaulting energy in this much played concerto.

The Brahms was even more freshly-minted, a sublime burgeoning of spring leading to a blaze of full summer. With a string section of 12-10-8-5-4 audibly pivoted around the violas, bass lines really told as the foundation upon which the melodic and contrapuntal superstructure of the violins and the rest of the orchestra wove their texture. No hint of old style chunky Brahmsian density or saturation here, just multi-layered clarity and luminosity. The balance was ear-tingling, allowing the many wind and especially principal horn solos space and time to articulate with vocal freedom and flexibility to build a magnificently articulated symphonic discourse to raise the spirits to the skies.

After these three trusty warhorses had all galloped to the finishing post with such celebratory élan, no wonder the entire orchestra joined the audience in applauding Catherine Larsen-Maguire to the roof of the hall. More soon please!

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