Music review: London Symphony Orchestra/ Simon Rattle, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle, Usher Hall
London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle, Usher Hall
Share this article
Have your say

“Wow!” exclaimed one rather over-enthusiastic audience member into the silence following the first movement of John Adams’s Harmonielehre.

London Symphony Orchestra/ Simon Rattle, Usher Hall, Edinburgh * * * * *

It got a chuckle from around the Usher Hall, plus a surprised kiss blown from Simon Rattle on the conductor’s podium. And it was an understandable reaction to Rattle’s breathtakingly high-energy, monumental account of Adams’s minimalism-meets-late-Romantic almost-symphony, which the conductor drove ever onwards from its granitic opening chords with unstoppable propulsive rhythm and brilliant, almost garish colours, building to climaxes of ear-splitting energy. Rattle has been a champion of Adams since his days with the CBSO, and his utter conviction showed in this ferocious, lapel-grabbing account. The London Symphony Orchestra musicians gave their all – lustrous strings in the desolate slow movement were especially memorable – in a performance that conjured all the ecstatic euphoria that the work is capable of. It was startling, gripping and unforgettable.

READ MORE: All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

And it made Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony after the interval seem almost tame by comparison. Nonetheless, Rattle delivered a rapturous performance that teased meaning out of even the most innocuous phrase, and which showcased the LSO musicians to wonderful effect – none more so than principal clarinettist Chris Richards, beguiling slow movement. Quite simply an exceptional evening of breathtaking music making.

David Kettle

For unlimited access to The Scotsman's festival coverage, subscribe here