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Mendelssohn, Grieg and Tchaikovsky

Mendelssohn: Overture: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), op.26 (1829/1835)
Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, op.16 (1868)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.2 in C minor, Little Russian, op.17 (1872)


Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Emmanuel Krivine

Jean-Yves Thibaudet – piano

Cadogan Hall, London, 14 April 2010


In the Zurich International Concert Series one doesn't expect to hear anything more than fairly established repertoire. It exists to highlight the world’s orchestras and it was good to welcome a band which is probably fairly unknown here, despite having its complete concert series broadcast on Radio Luxembourg 100.7m.


It is good to report that the Luxembourg Philharmonic is a very good orchestra, now in its 75th year. This concert showed off both their strengths and their weaknesses, the latter the responsibility of their chief conductor, Emmanuel Krivine who seemed, at first, to not be involved with the composers – rather with the music, to the detriment of the composers.

The performance of The Hebrides Overture seemed to be of two different works, the first, a soft, beautifully played gentle seascape, the second a wild storm twice the speed of the former and having nothing to do with it. There was no sense of growth or progression here, just quiet episodes and rapid explosions. This was neither the Hebrides Overture as we expect it to be, nor was it the Overture Mendelssohn wrote.


This, almost, willfulness filled the first movement of the Concerto, with a slightly too slow tempo chosen at the start which allowed Krivine to speed up and slow down at will, which harmed the flow of the music. The slow movement, however, was excellent, the generally calm splendour of the music being beautifully realised. Likewise the finale, which romped along and delivered a fine apotheosis. Thibaudet gave a most authoritative performance, without histrionics or any sense of virtuoso flashiness. As an encore he gave the Chopin’s Valse brillante in A minor, op.34/2, full of pathos and world weariness.


There were no worries with the Little Russian Symphony. Here Krivine directed a straight forward performance, full of humour, the second movement march was especially delightful, showing a light touch throughout. This is music which, unusual for much Tchaikovsky, has no angst, and Krivine ensured that delight was uppermost in his interpretation. This was truly lovely, and it made a fine conclusion to a somewhat uneven concert.


Bob Briggs