|Conductor Vladimir Jurowski (Photo: Sheila Rock)|
The combination of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and music director Vladimir Jurowski often promises something special, but in Prom 64 we were left waiting a while for it. Certainly, the concert got off to a pleasant start – I’m always eager to hear something from off the beaten track, and if Granville Bantock’s rarely heard 1902 tone poem The Witch of Atlas wore its debt to Tchaikovsky on its sleeve, it did so with considerable charm. It made an intriguing pairing with Sibelius’s mighty tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter, whose taut construction and vivid storytelling showed up the slack structure of the Bantock, but which received the less assured performance.
I had to feel for pianist Anika Vavic, whose day this clearly was not. She seemed nervous and uncomfortable in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto from the off, and it was simply a relief that she reached the end, albeit loosing handfuls of notes along the way (including, bizarrely, the entire mini-coda to the second movement). Ultimately, though, keyboard-malfunction-of-the-night went to the organist in Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, who accidentally planted an almighty organ parp right in the beautiful string-led passage that follows the famous ‘sunrise’ opening. Otherwise, Jurowski’s conducting and the LPO’s luminous playing in the Strauss were the highlights of a variable evening, with particular brownie points going to the string section principals, who demonstrated what a fine collection the orchestra currently has.