LPO/Jurowski review – a daring, outstanding Mahler 8th

Royal Festival Hall, London
With 400 performers under his command, Vladimir Jurowski lavished care, attention and intelligence on the sonic enormity of Mahler’s symphony

Performances of Gustav Mahler’s most ambitious symphony remain big events in every sense. Nothing Mahler wrote exhibits his claim that a symphony must contain the world more overtly. The annoying “Symphony of a Thousand” tag was early promotional hyperbole, but Vladimir Jurowski had at least 400 performers, including four choirs, eight soloists and the London Philharmonic under his control for this daringly conceived and outstandingly executed rendering of Mahler’s 8th.

I don’t recall another performance of the piece in which Mahler’s gigantic assertion of artistic creativity shared the bill with any other composition. Yet what a bold starter Jurowski selected before the Mahlerian main course. Thomas Tallis’s 1570 motet Spem in Alium comes from another era altogether and the very opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum. Yet it, too, is a work of astonishing ambition and affirmation. With Jurowski directing eight 20-strong choral groups that ringed the auditorium, this was not a Spem in Alium for performance purists. But the seamless leap into Mahler’s first movement summons of the creative spirit was, undeniably, an amazing moment.

Everything about the ensuing symphony, from the arrangement of the choral forces and soloists around the hall to the deftly deployed lighting, spoke of intelligent forethought harnessed to committed musicianship. Most impressive, and amid so much sonic enormity, was Jurowski’s constant care and control over dynamics, phrasing, balance and architecture. The orchestral detailing and choral moulding of the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust that takes up the symphony’s second part was compellingly done, with Judith Howarth and Anne Schwanewilms standing out in a strong group of soloists. But, lavishing care and attention on everything from delicate string portamentos to the brilliant timing of the final orchestral punch, this was very much Jurowski’s evening.


Contributor

Martin Kettle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
LPO/Jurowski/Perianes review – wit, colour and fire
In a programme exploring the influence of the exotic, pianist Javier Perianes shone in Saint-Saëns, Jurowksi and the PO brought drama and poise to works by Dukas, Debussy and Honegger

Tim Ashley

21, Apr, 2016 @3:00 PM

Article image
Oedipe review – Jurowski makes case for Enescu's 'lost masterpiece'
The anti-Freudian Oedipus opera may not flawless, but this performance with the LPO was a superb and beautiful achievement

Tim Ashley

24, Sep, 2017 @2:15 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – Marx's Autumn symphony overstays its welcome
The London Philharmonic brought grandeur – and 10 percussionists – to this ripe evocation of a single autumn day, but the work felt bloated beside a more poetic seasonal reflection by Respighi

Tim Ashley

30, Nov, 2017 @2:55 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – discipline, energy and whip-smart direction
In a show of great mutual understanding, Vladimir Jurowski led the London Philharmonic through a thoughtful and refreshing programme of enormous musical contrasts

Martin Kettle

29, Jan, 2017 @1:26 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – looking death in the face with unflinching intensity
Patricia Kopatchinskaja brought tenderness to the heartbreak of Berg’s violin concerto, and the London Philharmonic were outstanding in Shostakovich’s 15th

Martin Kettle

23, Feb, 2017 @3:20 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski at the Proms review – lush Lindberg partners Beethoven
Vladimir Jurowski oversaw a cerebral performance of the Ninth symphony, after the debut of Magnus Lindberg’s prequel Two Episodes

Erica Jeal

26, Jul, 2016 @10:54 AM

LPO/Jurowski – review
The LPO made a plausible case for Mahler's discarded Blumine movement for his First Symphony, writes George Hall

George Hall

06, Dec, 2010 @10:00 PM

LPO/Jurowski – review
The real controversy tonight was Vladimir Jurowski's championship of post-Soviet Russian music – and the first half, at least, was wonderful, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

22, Sep, 2011 @5:04 PM

LPO/Jurowski – review
writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

30, Jan, 2012 @6:04 PM

LPO/Jurowski – review
Vladimir Jurowski's account of Prokofiev's sixth symphony was compelling, a vindication of the work's ever-growing reputation, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

19, Jan, 2012 @6:50 PM