News & Reviews: Review

October 2017

Seen and Heard International

6th October 2017

Jim Pritchard

From the moment Maestro Bychkov lifted his baton, until he put it down after nearly 80 minutes, all the structural elements of this Fifth fell clearly into place – as they too seldom do – under his firm guidance to achieve the objectives he wanted. The result was that there was much finely observed detail and the music was allowed to move forward with less of the stop-start manipulation of Mahler’s rising and falling tensions – until the finale, of course – which we sometimes hear […]

There was a visceral sense of grief to the first movement before the second began with beautiful detail in the cellos – did I hear Tristan ever so briefly? – and Bychkov conjured up a maelstrom to suggest someone railing about how life is not entirely futile. The conductor seemed completely at home with the Viennese waltz-inspired frenzy of the Scherzo; there was light and shade and a strangely cheerful optimism. (With his twirling baton – and a hint of a smile crossing Bychkov’s face – I wondered what his New Year’s Day Strauss concert would be like.) The Adagietto was several seconds short of nine minutes – one the fastest I have heard in performance – and the heartfelt playing from the strings was sublime. This is so much better as a love song – rather than a dirge – and there was more than a hint of Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde.

The Rondo-Finale follows on immediately from the Adagietto and uses themes heard previously in the symphony. This is the last symphonic movement Mahler wrote where there is unalloyed joy as all his later symphonies are tinged with the troubles in Mahler’s life. Bychkov whipped up the remarkable LSO – especially the horns – to a resounding and affirmative conclusion. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if they would all finish together: I should never have doubted that they would and conductor and orchestra thoroughly deserved the audience’s acclaim.