Review: London Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Guildhall

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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.

The LSO clearly offered something different from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s regular Guildhall fare, but the BSO concert on April 3, featuring Bruckner’s ninth symphony, will surely be the season’s absolute highlight.