LSO: Birtwistle Violin Concerto / Knussen Symphony No. 3 / Elgar Enigma / Simon Rattle

It wasn’t faultless. But, truth be told, faultless would have been disappointing.

There were shaky moments in the Elgar – chords anticipated which probably could have done with a moment before they were placed. A premature woodwind cue as well.

Elgar’s Enigma work settled down by the third variation. The strings worked hard – the rapport between Rattle and the section undeniable. This is where Rattle’s impact was felt most keenly, the entire section sounding like one breathing entity.

Members of the string section were visibly moved after the final variation. “That was very good,” mouthed one of the firsts to her desk partner.

Birtwistle’s Violin Concerto is a lengthy and demanding work, for soloist and audience alike, stitched together with a rich violin solo that showcased the technical mastery and considerable stamina of Christian Tetzlaff.

Musically, Ades’ Asyla was the most engaging work – a sensory overload scored by a composer whose concise writing makes for an absorbing concert experience. Helen Grimes’ Fanfare glittered and shone; Oliver Knussen’s third symphony resonated with warmth and passion.

Rattle began his formal public-facing relationship with the LSO with a bold statement of intent – a programme celebrating British composers that gives the UK concert scene a shot in the arm. A bold start to a new relationship a lot of us have considerable hopes pinned on.

I can’t think of any other cultural experience where an ongoing professional relationship can be witnessed.

The opportunity to witness a developing relationship and discern the resulting change in the auditorium makes Rattle and the LSO not just a brilliant musical pairing, but one underpinned by drama.

A faultless performance would have denied us jeopardy. What we’re left with now is the concert-hall equivalent of a cliffhanger just without the peril, and the promise of an ongoing story. That’s something the classical music world desperately needs right now.

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