6th October 2017
Britten was a devotee of Mahler’s music and his arrangements (such as “What the wild flowers tell me” from the Third Symphony) helped Mahler’s music reach a wider public in England. It was appropriate, then, to pair the Britten concerto with Mahler’s Fifth in what proved a powerful overall performance. Bychkov’s Mahler is implacable and weighty so the sober tread to the opening funeral march came as little surprise, although splenetic outbursts surprised as he ramped up the tempo during the first movement.
The LSO responded magnificently, particularly the brass. Philip Cobb’s incisive solo trumpet call cut across the hall with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, yet his buttery pianissimos were just as impressive. Fierce double basses really dug into the second movement, but Bychkov was in no hurry, lending a granitic solidity to the performance […] Willem Mengelberg claimed the Adagietto was Mahler’s declaration of love to Alma. Bychkov kept it moving, a songlike, tender embrace that never cloyed, attentive to every dynamic swell in the strings. His approach to the finale, as Mahler moves from tragedy to triumph, was one of fierce industry, leading to a jubilant conclusion to a terrific concert.