The Guardian

April 11, 2016


LPO, Eschenbach, lucid and humane pairing of Brahms and Schoenberg


by Tim Ashley





12/4/2016 LPO/Eschenbach review – lucid and humane pairing of Brahms and Schoenberg | Music | The Guardian






LPO/Eschenbach review – lucid and humane pairing of Brahms and Schoenberg


Royal Festival Hall, LondonChristoph Eschenbach perfectly blended the intimate with the monumental, while the London Philharmonic Choir were outstanding


Tim Ashley


Monday 11 April 2016 12.53 BST


“Agreat progressive” was how Schoenberg described Brahms, determinedly refuting the much touted idea that still persists today that the latter was essentially conservative. The influence of Brahms’s methodology on Schoenberg’s own was


strong: the gradual dissolution of traditional harmony was underpinned by a Brahmsian rigour in matters of cell-like thematic transformation and developmental complexity. The two composers can complement each other when performed together, and for his latest concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach prefaced Brahms’s German Requiem with Verklärte Nacht in its 1943 version for string orchestra.


Eschenbach is noted for his fondness for expansive tempi, and the central section of Verklärte Nacht could perhaps have done with greater pressure and emotional density. But for a work all too often treated with rhapsodic self-indulgence, it was admirably lucid in texture and counterpoint, its lines overlapping and tangling with an ideal mix of precision and sensuality. The balance was immaculately judged, the string sound exquisite.


Clarity of line and counterpoint also dominated the Brahms in a profoundly humane performance that blended the intimate with the monumental. Eschenbach’s combination of slow speeds and great depth of feeling proved immensely persuasive here. Measured treads and strongly emphasised pedal points suggested an underlay of ritual grandeur; transparency in strings and woodwind brought fervent inwardness to moments of repose and contemplation. Whether hushed in devotional wonder at Wie Lieblich Sind Deine Wohnungen, or letting rip in the tremendous assertion of hope that closes the sixth movement, the London Philharmonic Choir were outstanding. Baritone Matthias Goerne sounded lofty and rather detached. Sarah Tynan had a couple of moments of unsteadiness in the great soprano solo that forms the work’s emotional fulcrum.


 




 





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