LSO/Rattle review – eloquently expressive Turnage and mighty Mahler

Barbican, London
Under Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s reflective Remembering was in no way discountenanced by being followed by Mahler’s mighty sixth symphony

There are several memorial pieces in Mark-Anthony Turnage’s output. His new work for the LSO and its chief conductor designate Simon Rattle was written in memory of Evan Scofield, son of jazz guitarist and regular Turnage collaborator John Scofield, who died four years ago in his mid-20s.

Remembering is a substantial piece of half an hour consisting of four movements: in a radio interview, Turnage admitted that the result is effectively a symphony.

Starting with a movement in the composer’s most eruptive and jagged style it continues with music of bouncing ebullience whose wayward lyricism incorporates Turnage’s characteristically vital bluesy inflections. The second movement places sombre, troubled gestures within an atmosphere of stillness and restraint. A scherzo follows, restless and slithery. But it’s in the slow, uneasy finale that the note of inner reflection reaches its most personal and eloquently expressive apogee.

It says much both for the quality of the piece itself and the palpable commitment of the performance that Remembering felt in no way discountenanced by being followed by Mahler’s mighty Sixth symphony. Rattle elected to place the slow movement second and left out the finale’s third, disputed hammer blow – both interpretative choices over which experts on the composer continue to hold divergent views but which carried conviction on this occasion. Though in this long and exceptionally demanding piece detail was not always ideally sharp, and the overall structure could have attained a greater sense of inevitability, Rattle drew grandly impassioned music-making from his players throughout, with the LSO strings in particular on soaring form.

Contributor

George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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