LPO, Edward Gardner & Seong-Jin Cho at the Royal Festival Hall – Wagner, Beethoven, Tippett

<div>LPO, Edward Gardner & Seong-Jin Cho at the Royal Festival Hall – Wagner, Beethoven, Tippett</div>

Edward Gardner fashioned a clear-sighted account of the Tippett, controlling the first movement’s gnarly energy and gentle sonorities with ease and allowed a natural unfolding of the music’s tension and release. If its contrapuntal busyness seems overheated at times with string lines of needless complexity, the LPO made light of its melodic angularities and chugging rhythms, the latter supposedly inspired by Vivaldi. There is, arguably, some kinship with a Baroque Concerto in those instrumental juxtapositions but, above all, it’s a Symphony of striking sonorities framed mostly within an athletic, earthy vitality. It’s in the cool vistas and profound rumination of the Adagio where Tippett is at his most luminous. Here, Gardner drew rapt playing from trumpet, elegiac cellos and tinkling harp and piano, the whole mesmerising for its haunting beauty. Chattering woodwinds were kept busy in the Scherzo, its fleet-footed playfulness and shifting colours held together in a gripping account. All the brash, jazzy and bitonal elements of the Finale were neatly shaped in an eventful traversal, earlier fanfare figures and echoes of Stravinsky freshly minted and Tippett’s ever-resourceful scoring constantly catching the ear.

Proceedings had begun with a glowing account of the WagnerGardner coaxing an affectionate account, its performance, if not especially atmospheric, demonstrated the warmth of relationship between conductor and orchestra. However, the Beethoven made clear this rapport was not always stable, briefly discernible in the Finale’s first tutti where a momentary disagreement over the length of note values between strings and trumpets occurred. It was but a passing divergence, but one suggesting that Tippett may have had the lion’s share of rehearsal. Elsewhere, orchestra and Seong-Jin Cho were on sparkling form, if not necessarily generating a convincing lion-taming act in an otherwise exquisite central Andante. By far the more characterful of the three movements was the opening Allegro, here the soloist’s transparent tones were variously impish, mysterious and pugnacious, transferring each of those qualities into a cadenza of accumulating power.

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