First page of the score of Ein Alpensinfonie, Richard Strauss

An excellent concert - a heavyweight programme given top level performances. When you open a score and see that it starts with two bass clarinets and then the bass tuba comes in at only bar nine you know to expect an exceptionally large orchestra on stage. Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony gives an impression of an alpine mountain hike which starts in the pre-dawn, ascends the mountains wandering through meadow, forest and pasture (these programme points are all itemised quite precisely in the score) before reaching the summit with a huge and expansive view. Strauss’ orchestral textures are dense but Antonio Pappano’s reading showcased Strauss’ effects and impressions without loosing the overall theme and thrill of a day out in the mountains. Crossing the glacier was spiky and perilous, the apparition scary and the vision mysterious. Even the organ solo suggesting passing a village church on the last leg of the homeward hike was given due prominence. A full respectful silence from the audience as the music faded in to the night, followed by an enthusiastic reception.

Rossini’s Overture to his opera William Tell is an over-familiar piece but one I don’t recall hearing previously in a live performance; it was superb in this concert performance with a big orchestra not boxed in to the pit of an opera house. Like the Strauss, it depicts Alpine scenes. A glorious warm even passionate cello ensemble in the Prelude evoking Dawn. Precision in the storm and the lyrical flute and triangle section “The call to the Cows”. Low intervention conducting for the well-known galop, the Lone Ranger would have had trouble keeping up with this pace. The William Tell overture is so familiar from recordings, some of them quite ancient where the recording engineers have quashed mercilessly the dynamics, it was a huge treat to hear the music to its full extent revealed in this performance. And of course Sir Antonio Pappano is a famous conductor in the opera house and clearly has an Italian’s feel for the music of Rossini.
Roman Simovic, the soloist for Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 turned out to be much taller than his photo suggested. His violin sound had a sublime lightness and flexibility, following Bruch’s long flowing melodic lines tensely yet he played with a strength and positiveness which clearly came from his physicality domineering his relatively tiny instrument. Seemingly effortless handoffs flowing between the soloist and the orchestra modulating the timbre from single instrument to the group sound. After such control and flow, his encore was entirely the wild fervour of the solo violin but clearly very controlled. If it was the same instrument it sounded entirely transformed.
So, a memorable concert.

Rossini Overture, William Tell
Bruch, Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor Op 26
Strauss, An Alpine Symphony Op 64

Sir Antonio Pappano, conductor
Roman Simovic, violin
London Symphony Orchestra