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LSO/Rattle review – Zimerman and Rattle have forged a very special musical partnership

Barbican, London

Krystian Zimerman’s account of Brahms’s D minor Piano Concerto combined technical perfection with astonishing energy; Rattle and the orchestra brought off the Dvorak that followed with tremendous panache

The London Symphony Orchestra could not have come up with a much better indication of what the future might hold in the Simon Rattle era than securing Krystian Zimerman as the soloist for the music director’s first concert since his appointment. Any performance by Zimerman is a special occasion, and these occasions have become even more precious over recent years as his appearances in the UK seem to grow less frequent. But as this unforgettable account of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor showed, he and Rattle have forged a very special musical partnership.

The greatest interpreters make you believe you are encountering even the most familiar work for the first time, and Zimerman offered exactly that kind of journey of discovery through the vast span of the Brahms concerto. But this was not just a reading of the score in which every detail was deeply considered and immaculately presented. That technical perfection was only the starting point for a performance of astonishing energy and sometime ferocious intensity, with the central Adagio refracted through myriad keyboard colours to provide cooling respite, and Rattle following Zimerman every step of the way. There was some real pianissimo playing from the LSO too, and that’s something they’ve never contemplated under their current principal conductor.

Following such a titanic concerto performance with lighter weight, pictorial Dvořák was a smart idea as well, though programming two of the late symphonic poems, separated by one of the Slavonic Dances, was perhaps a bit too much of a good thing. For all their energy and vivid orchestral colour, The Wild Dove and The Golden Spinning Wheel do go on a bit in a rather episodic way, but Rattle and the orchestra brought them off with tremendous panache, and at the end of such an exceptional concert no one was disposed to complain.

Friday 3 July 2015


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