Classical review: London Symphony Orchestra 01, Usher Hall

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Assuming the lights stay on at the Usher Hall, then the next three nights promise a lavish feast of music by Szymanowski and Brahms as Valery Gergiev and the LSO unfold their four-concert series of both composers’ symphonies and Szymanowski’s concertos.

Star rating: * * * *

The opener was a compelling appetiser.

The pairing of these composers proved so much more potent in outcome than they did in expectation. For in the wake of Szymanowski’s prototype 
heart-racer of a First Symphony, and the shimmering restlessness of his Violin Concerto No 1, the sheer groundedness of Brahms’ own First Symphony was like settling to a fine fillet steak after an exotically spiced couple of starters.

Digestion was aided by Gergiev’s forceful control of the Szymanowski symphony, an incomplete two-movement version of the composer’s original grander intentions. What we witnessed was a fulminating post-Romantic stew, billowing waves of angst, glacial outbursts of chromatic complexity, and a sense in this unwavering performance that the journey for the Polish composer was about to begin.

What better evidence that he was going places than the violin concerto, with its fantastical effervescent opening, and that magical moment where the soloist steps in with a 
time-stopping melody.

In this case it was Nicola Benedetti, making an impressive Edinburgh Festival debut with a performance that captured well the mercurial delights of this jewel-like work.

Gergiev’s Brahms was at its best in the poetic warmth of the slow movement.