Two Mendelssohn symphonies were the popular attraction in the LSO’s long-awaited return to Portsmouth, but the revelation was Schumann’s late and seldom-played Violin Concerto.
Russian-born soloist Alina Ibragimova made it not only sing and dance but smile delightfully, both in the opening movement’s long-breathed second melody and in the haunting slow movement. And her fireworks elsewhere were dazzlingly articulate.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, a famed champion of authentic musical practice, had the violins and violas standing for Mendelssohn’s Italian and Scottish symphonies, with violins divided to his left and right, and vibrato was a virtual no-go zone. Instead the conductor achieved expression largely through sharp accents and a vivid range of tone-colouring, delivered with high energy. This was electrifying, virtuoso playing, but the point-making became tiresome in the Italian Symphony where the ‘singing’ was restricted to the slow movement. The Scottish, a more robust work, was better able to stand the approach.