LSO/Manfred Honeck Ė Schubertís Unfinished Symphony and Brahmsís Violin Concerto with Nikolaj Znaider ... Nicholas Collon conducts Eloise Nancie Gynnís Anahata

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Eloise Nancie Gynn
Anahata [LSO Panufnik Young Composers Scheme commission: first performance]
Symphony No.8 in B minor (Unfinished)
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Nikolaj Znaider (violin)

London Symphony Orchestra
Nicholas Collon [Anahata]
Manfred Honeck

Barbican Hall, London

Sunday, March 24, 2013

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Eloise Nancie Gynn. Photograph: Anahata by Eloise Nancie Gynn is the product of the LSO Panufnik Young Composers Scheme. The 28-year-old composer grew up in Cornwall, in a house full of instruments from all over the world and a background in music that sowed the seeds of her broad stylistic range. Anahata means Ďheart chakraí, and the six-minute piece was inspired by her spiritual experiences on a recent journey to India. I admit that the chakra of my heart rather sinks at the prospect of journeys into Tantric stillness, however well intended, fearful that Iím in for another round of spiritual cherry-picking. Yet, although Anahata doesnít grab you as particularly original it is beautifully written for orchestra and Gynn clearly has a finely developed ear for colour and timbre. So, while she may fall in with some of the tropes of mystical contemporary music Ė a glacially slow pulse setting forth on the well-worn path from darkness to light, and modish sound effects such as players blowing air down their instruments Ė Anahata still vanished some cynical preconceptions away. The way in which an oboe theme curled out of the texture had an attractive spontaneity that fed into an impressively robust climax, and the musicís meditative quality had the sort of quiet grandeur to which resistance was futile. With the LSOís superbly atmospheric playing and Nicholas Collonís searching direction confirming what a fine conductor he is, the cohesive, well-made strength of Anahata was firmly established.
Manfred Honeck. Photograph: Toshiyuki Urano Manfred Honeck was the conductor for the Schubert and Brahms, stepping in for Sir Colin Davis, who expects to return to the podium in the summer. Honeckís approach to Schubertí ĎUnfinishedí Symphony was combative, epic and tragic. The strings (nine double basses on the far left, violas and cellos in the middle) presented a massive spread of sound, supercharged with depth and responsiveness. You were left in no doubt as to the terse anxiety of the first movement, nor, even by Schubertís standards, of its extreme expressiveness, exposed by Honeckís emphasis of the musicís nakedly intense, epigrammatic contrasts. The anguished mood extended into the Andante, enhanced by being taken at roughly the same speed as the first movement, with a ravishingly played clarinet solo offering scant relief.
Nikolaj Znaider Honeck retreated, a bit, from epic contrast mode in Brahmsís Violin Concerto, but there was still a sumptuous solidity to the first movement. This worked greatly to Nikolaj Znaiderís advantage, providing the ideal foil to the aristocratic concentration of his playing. In tandem with Honeckís attentive, flexible conducting, he established a marked rapport with the orchestra, balancing the musicís symphony and concerto differences with a liquid mobility. Thereís discretion and intelligence to Znaiderís playing that defines the flavour of Brahmsís North-German/Viennese romanticism, elevated by the matchless, lyric sweetness of his tone. The elegiac tone of the slow movement was perfectly judged, prefaced by an achingly beautiful oboe solo, and the finale was energised by an emphatic, quasi-Brucknerian rhythmic weight. This wasnít an overtly emotional performance, rather one in which the layers of Znaiderís musing intimacy spoke as loudly as the more bravura moments, and which clinched its restrained eloquence and passion. What a great violinist Znaider is, and he added a little unaccompanied Bach as an encore.

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