Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble/Minkowski – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Marc Minkowski's Alpine ensemble attack a Schubert-only programme with boldness, but mixed success

Bassoonist-turned-conductor Marc Minkowski founded his spirited ensemble when he was just 19 and initially specialised in baroque music. More than three decades on, Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble have relocated from Paris to the Alps and roamed forwards and sideways in repertoire to cover the likes of Offenbach and beyond. In Edinburgh they're giving two concerts comprising entirely of Schubert symphonies – not an easy sell, judging by the number of empty seats at the first. And although his baroque opera is generally first-rate, Minkowski's Schubert proved a mixed bag. This concert was carried by its bravura, bold colours and moments of simple beauty, but too many intervening details were fudged or glossed over, and too much of the group's energy dissipated through surprisingly rough edges.

The boisterous First Symphony made a strong start: its youthful posturing suited the orchestra's playful tack. Les Musiciens make a beefy sound for a period-instrument group – for instance, Minkowski used nearly as many double basses as cellos, and elevated them above the rest of the strings like a kind of orchestral subwoofer. Inner voices were vibrant, the Andante had gentle poise, the Minuet was broad and stately.

But the stripped-down finesse of the Fifth Symphony didn't fare so well. The opening chords sounded lax, the main theme offhand, and there were patches of downright scruffy playing. In the second movement the winds didn't blend, and the finale felt on unsteady ground, with shifting tempos. Minkowski deserves special mention for trying to shut up the cough-happy Usher Hall audience with a firm extended hand gesture: it allowed him to create some beautifully hushed passages in the Seventh Symphony. But, as in the Fifth, this performance of the Unfinished rode on headline atmosphere above subtle nuance.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #GdnGig

Contributor

Kate Molleson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Fidelio – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

The reason for setting Beethoven's opera in outer space, complete with lasers, transvestites and radical leftists, escapes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

11, Aug, 2013 @1:01 PM

Article image
BRSO/Jansons – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Mariss Jansons's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique ranks among the greatest. Mitsuko Uchida's Beethoven was superb, too, says Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

12, Aug, 2013 @3:50 PM

RSNO/Gergiev – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

The opening concert of the international festival was something of a stunner, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

11, Aug, 2013 @1:18 PM

Article image
Patti Smith/Philip Glass – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

A warm, magnetic Smith teams up with Glass for a heartfelt tribute to Allen Ginsberg, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

14, Aug, 2013 @3:51 PM

Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/Zinman – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

David Zinman's brisk conducting produced a slick and efficient performance, but more emotion would have been welcome, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

27, Aug, 2013 @6:16 PM

Article image
Dido and Aeneas/Bluebeard's Castle – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Frankfurt Opera's stylish and astutely directed double bill shines new light on both Bartók and Purcell, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

25, Aug, 2013 @4:59 PM

Classical review: Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble/Minkowski, Barbican, London

Barbican, London
It would be hard to imagine Handel's posh, decorous sensuality better done, says Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

22, Jan, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Rachel Parris – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Behind this talented musical comedian's wholesome, naive facade, a story emerges of a woman on the verge of cracking up, writes Brian Logan

Brian Logan

16, Aug, 2013 @11:20 AM

Article image
Martha Reeves – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

Off-piste a cappella and audience participation brought this gig memorably to life, writes Graeme Virtue

Graeme Virtue

08, Aug, 2013 @11:07 AM

Article image
Baconface – Edinburgh festival 2013 review

The true identity of this 'cult 1980s Canadian standup' is the worst-kept secrety in Edinburgh – and it's great to watch Stewart Lee slumming it, writes Brian Logan

Brian Logan

05, Aug, 2013 @5:16 PM