A rousing performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique completed tonight's London Symphony Orchestra concert at the Barbican with François-Xavier Roth collaborating with the LSO from the podium in a very modern style of conducting, including wearing a grey suit (which showed his perspiration) rather than black tails; also, he didn't use a baton.
This combination of the precision of the LSO's technique and experience of the Symphonie fantastique under many conductors together with Roth's Parisian overview and nuances produced a performance which kept momentum and shape and interest even in the "difficult" passages like the end of the third movement Adagio.
Barry Douglas' virtuosity was shamelessly projected at the audience from the Steinway piano for the Liszt Piano Concerto No 2 which reduced the opportunities of dialogue with the orchestra. What would Liszt have done with the orchestra and piano available to him - and what would he have done given modern forces? Maybe still the virtuosity but not quite so much feeling of a stick being offered to the eyes in the way of projecting to a stadium rather than to the sympathetic acoustic of the Barbican Hall.
Liszt's Symphonic Poem No 6 ('Mazeppa') was a great curtain raiser with some nice tunes without too much complexity and again Roth's encouraging and moderating great playing from the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO).