London Symphony Orchestra and Yuja Wang at the Barbican
The London Symphony Orchestra and pianist sensation Yuja Wang do not quite match. They may have brilliance and acclaim in common, but Wang’s vibrant stage presence holds a fore-frontal contrast to the ensemble’s calculated precision. That’s not to say their performance of Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No 3 (composed especially for Wang, making its UK premier on this occasion) and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony No 6 wasn’t both entertaining and technically astounding, but it felt somewhat pent-up, strained at the seams.
Lindberg is a fascinating composer. The Finn writes carefully and with formulated intensity, fine-tuning beautifully to the intricacies of Wang’s style and particular strengths in this particular work. The concerto is momentary, meandering and vast: one moment it is soaring through a huge natural expanse and the next it’s gadding about from theme to theme like a Tom and Jerry score. Wang, uncompromising, delivers – even if her accompaniment is slightly nondescript on this occasion. She is fearless and that is something hugely enjoyable to take in.
This rendition of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” is a curious one. There is a rockiness to it, a slight tension between the orchestra and conductor François-Xavier Roth, starkly limiting how pastoral it can realistically be. Of course, every musician performing is superb, but that doesn’t help them necessarily combine as much as other orchestras might in the delivery of such a groundbreaking and extraordinary work. The universal on-stage mood of the night suits the tempestuous drive the symphony develops in its penultimate stages, but not the quaintness of its opening and much-loved lulling themes.
London Symphony Orchestra is a staid institution. Of course, there remains a market for technically brilliant out-and-out classical music making, but there’s no cutting edge here – not any more. They can rely on Wang, though.
Photo: Mark Allan
For further information and future events visit the London Symphony Orchestra’s website here and Yuja Wang’s website here.