United Kingdom Mozart, Bruckner: Richard Goode (piano), London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski (conductor), Royal Festival Hall, London, 30.9.2017. (AS)
Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
Bruckner – Symphony No.5 in B flat (1878 version)
There is a difference, one which is indefinable, perhaps, between a performance where the music is played plainly and dully, and one where, without any apparent interpretive input, the same notes when played shine out with rich communication and character. The latter was very much the case when Richard Goode played the Mozart D minor Concerto in this concert. At the age of 74 Goode’s technique is still superb, and if he mostly looked at the printed music in front of him, that didn’t matter one bit, since this didn’t affect the life and spontaneity of his playing. His style was objective and classically restrained, but paradoxically in his case not only was Mozart’s inspiration conveyed with complete fidelity but also with a compelling power and sharpness. It was entirely natural music-making, with the pianist’s brain and heart working together in perfect harmony, and it was a richly satisfying experience. Tempi throughout the work were perfectly judged, and Jurowski and the LPO responded to Goode with total understanding and sympathy.
The Fifth Symphony of Bruckner is the most complex of any he wrote, and the most elusive one for the listener to grasp. With his probing, highly intellectual approach and the experience in Bruckner’s music that he has already garnered, Jurowski might seem to be a very suitable candidate as a guide to this work, and such proved to be the case. The opening of the work, with its tricky to manage contrasts of tempo and emphasis, was excellently brought off. Once the work got into its stride Jurowski’s tempi during the first movement as a whole were generally on the brisk side, but not so that the music seemed to hurried along. But unlike most great Bruckner conductors of the past Jurowski’s precise direction and baton work ensured that the music was rather kept on a leash, a sympathetic one, to be sure, but this composer’s characteristic pauses, for instance, had been pre-measured rather than left to the inspiration or whim of the moment. It was a satisfyingly balanced and well-delivered account of the movement, but one that was perhaps lacking in grandeur or spirituality.
In the Adagio Jurowski adopted a good, flowing tempo, and again the structure of the movement was projected with clarity and well-defined argument. The music certainly never dragged its feet, but with a slow pulse predominating, the conductor’s brightly lit, precise style of conducting sometimes led to a certain plainness of execution. Atmosphere and mystery were somehow at one remove.
The conventional Scherzo and trio form of the third movement and its various tempo variations were well managed by Jurowski, though here again the music seemed to be slightly kept on a lead, and he steered the orchestra admirably through the diverse subject matter of the finale, with an excellently judged final peroration.
It was a performance that attracted respect for its many achievements and skills revealed, but not one that left this listener spiritually uplifted.
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