One of the advantages of getting older is that you have been lucky enough to watch things, people, orchestras and artists growing. I still remember the day around 20 years ago when startling news spread around Glyndebourne that a 20-something Russian conductor had been appointed as music director and everyone said "Vladimir Jurowski? Who?"
|Vladimir Jurowski. |
Photo: Drew Kelley
Jurowski's technique is quite the opposite of the "windmill", "Ketchup Kid" or "flailing octopus" approach one sometimes encounters in certain other conductors. There is something Zen about him: he has long sought a special form of almost preternatural concentration, a central force of stillness and exactitude. I have the impression that yesterday realised fully the vision he has been working towards all these years.
They started on the Pathétique together in 2005 and I've heard them perform it several times. It was always good; now it's the north face of a musical Eiger. Its backbone of strength and dignity is everything. There's no sentiment or slush, but urgent, philosophical eloquence. There's no for-effects push-me-pull-you, but the breathlike flexibility of true rubato if and when required, and magisterial pacing of the work's grand structures and long lines. The march is as terrifying as a million-strong, empty-eyed totalitarian rally. There's no depression, but authentic tragedy in the finale, and the cellos and basses finally subside like red-eyed demons into their pit of darkness. The effect is shattering.
I don't think there is a way to solve the clapping-after-the-march problem. They've performed it on tour around the world and Tom says the only place where that didn't happen was Hong Kong. This march-to-the-scaffold and its devil-imp clarinet (note to self: investigate Tchaikovsky's view of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique) should really have been enough to stun everyone into horrified silence.
The concert opened with a tribute to the late Oliver Knussen in the form of his delicate, glimmering orchestrations of some Scriabin piano miniatures, and continued with a vivid, well argued and cool-headed account of the Britten Violin Concerto with the splendid Julia Fischer as soloist. The evening was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and you can hear it on the iPlayer for a month here.
Jurowski will be a very, very difficult act to follow. And my goodness, he will be missed.