Classical review: London Symphony Orchestra, Edinburgh

THE Edinburgh International Festival opened three weeks ago with a resplendent musical spectacular – The Harmonium Project. On Sunday it ended with guttural attitude and seething venom.

Valery Gergiev finally managed to get the LSO going at full heat
Valery Gergiev finally managed to get the LSO going at full heat

For this was a gritty programme by the London Symphony Orchestra that combined two of the early 20th century’s most pungent orchestral scores – Bartok’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin and Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring – and, sandwiched between these, the delicious subtleties of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No 3.

It took a while for the LSO, under Valery Gergiev, to really turn up the heat. This wasn’t as fiery a version of The Miraculous Mandarin as you’d have expected from an orchestra whose bold brass, stinging woodwind and gutsy strings were in evidence from the start, but just not as rhythmically taut as was needed. When it all eventually came together, however, and the LSO was firing on all cylinders, the electricity flowed.

Pianist Yefim Bronfman’s poised and perceptive playing captured the magical clarity and precision of the Bartok concerto, before the second half exploded to the ritualistic fervour of the Stravinsky. This, despite a cautious opening bassoon solo, was the LSO in vintage form, rampant and visceral.