Orchestral players take centre stage at The Lighthouse
BEETHOVEN: Triple Concerto
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5
WITH no virtuoso solo concerto in the programme, the focus in this packed Lighthouse concert was on the orchestra, with several principals taking significant solos. The concert started with Mahler’s ‘Blumine’, a rejected fifth movement from the 1st Symphony, not rediscovered until the 1960s. It’s a romantic serenade with very prominent parts for Chris Avison’s trumpet and Edward Kay’s oboe. It was given a loving performance with nicely idiomatic portamento from the mellifluous strings. Perhaps we can look forward to hearing a whole Mahler symphony from Karabits in the future?
Then it was the turn of leader Amyn Merchant and principal cello Jesper Svedberg to join artist-in-residence pianist Sunwook Kim in the solo parts in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Written just after the Eroica Symphony and during the time he was working on the Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas, the first draft of ‘Fidelio’ and the 4th Piano Concerto, the Triple Concerto is a somewhat neglected foothill among these towering peaks. The concerto lacks the riveting drama, originality and striking thematic material of those works. Often sounding like an intimate piano trio with occasional orchestral interventions, it sprang to life for me in Svedberg’s beautiful solo at the start of the all-too-brief second movement, when Kevin Banks’s clarinet also contributed to the rapt, chamber-music feel. Throughout, Sunwook Kim’s sensitively suave playing whetted the appetite for his forthcoming solo concert on 18th February and his Rachmaninov 3 on 29th April.
After the interval we were treated to a devastatingly intense performance of Shostakovich’s towering 5th symphony. Amyn Merchant resumed his seat and led the orchestra through a tense, concentrated exploration of this still-controversial score. Written at a time when Shostakovich’s life was literally at risk from Stalin’s secret police for the crime of being a ‘bourgeois formalist’, and subtitled ‘A Soviet artist’s response to just criticism’, the symphony has an overt programme of the struggle of a man to emerge from tension and tragedy into optimism and joy, moving from minor to major in the footsteps of Beethoven’s and Tchaikovsky’s own 5th symphonies. Modern interpretations have seen the sour, sardonic irony of the triumphalist passages as a heroic coded musical attack on Stalin himself, and this is certainly the way Karabits played it. Throughout, the quality of the playing from all the string sections was superb and the force and precision of the climaxes quite overwhelming. Lucky listeners to Radio 3 were able to listen in live.
You can hear it too on BBC iPlayer: