Voice of Defiance Still Speaks to Us All; CLASSICAL

By Hunt, Brian | The Evening Standard (London, England), June 19, 2002 | Go to article overview

Voice of Defiance Still Speaks to Us All; CLASSICAL


Hunt, Brian, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: BRIAN HUNT

LPO/Berglund

Royal Festival Hall

HOW much will Shostakovich's mixture of ironic populism and grandiose pessimism matter to posterity once we start listening to his works as music rather than acts of defiance against Stalinism? Just when you become convinced that his reputation is about to slump, a performance such as this by the London Philharmonic and Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund persuades you otherwise. Its conviction swept away any doubt about the Eighth Symphony's worth, just as it erased memories of the concert's unfortunate first half, with soprano Jane Eaglen out of form in Strauss's Four Last Songs.

It's not so much what Berglund does as what he doesn't do in these highly dramatic scores. The first movement of the Eighth is a slow crescendo in which tension builds up like a vast body of water behind a dam.

Most conductors push the tempo forward as they approach the climax, just as they allow ensemble to fray in the hope that it will convey excitement; instead, the loss of discipline usually allows energy to disperse.

Berglund's grip never loosens and the effect is shattering. …

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