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

London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle, Usher Hall
London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle, Usher Hall
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“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

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