LSO/Järvi review – incoherent and self-regarding; even Reich's premiere fails

Barbican, London
A programme of new works was consistent only in how it disappointed, with Järvi’s own overlong composition particularly trying

Kristjan Järvi has become one of the London Symphony Orchestra’s regular guests because, one suspects, his programmes invariably offer something a bit different from the usual offerings of visiting conductors. Whether the sheer quality of his concerts comes into it is another matter, though beneath the self-conscious trendiness of much of his music making there is, one suspects, a fine musician not trying hard enough to get out.

Järvi’s latest appearance with the LSO consisted entirely of works new to the UK. Three of them were self-consciously baroque-inspired. Charles Coleman’s Drenched, based on gobbets of Handel’s Water Music, and his four Bach Inventions, two of which are straightforward string-orchestra arrangements, the others wider ranging reimaginations, were harmless enough. But Järvi’s own Too Hot to Handel, was much more egregious – nearly 40 minutes of incoherent, jazzed-up baroque gobbets, which only a conductor with no shortage of self-regard could have thought of including in his own concert.

The real music came from Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Yet Glass’s Piano Concerto No 3, composed last year for soloist Simone Dinnerstein, was a disappointment, too. Its three movements of gentle pulsings – like a couple of bars of late Brahms repeated ad nauseam over passive string accompaniments, were scarcely differentiated, a pianist with more textural imagination than Dinnnerstein might have brought more allure to the solo part.

Even Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, co-commissioned by the LSO with five other orchestral partners, lacked the crispness and textural clarity one takes for granted in a Reich score. Its architecture was clear enough, but the interplay of the wind and tuned percussion in the ensemble, supported by the “orchestra” of trumpets and strings and driven forward by a pair of sampling keyboards, never created the bracing, tangy patterns one expected. Some of the rehearsal time devoted to Järvi’s drivel might have been better spent adjusting the balance between these instrumental layers.

Broadcast on Radio 3 on 3 December


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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