Vladimir Jurowski has not only restored the level of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but he has also given it a reputation as willing to perform rarer works. Tonight, the highly unusual Symphony #3 by George Enescu.
The Romanian prodigy Enescu studied first at the Vienna Conservatory and then at the Paris Conservatory. This may have influenced this symphony, which was Austrian in concept but French in the details. He employed a massive orchestra and chorus (wordless) to paint an enormous canvas, and then stuck to only pastel colors. Jurowksi is clearly enamored of this work, and he made a point of holding the score over his head during the rounds of applause at the end, to have the audience give it special recognition.
I think the orchestra liked the spectacle of it. And it certainly gave most instruments a chance to stand out and add their own colors – I suppose if anyone is to perform this symphony, it might as well be the London Philharmonic under Jurowski. But was it a good work? I’m not sure. Some rarely-performed pieces are secret gems… others are rarely-performed for a reason. It wasn’t bad. I might hear it again sometime to give it another try. But even this excellent performance by sympathetic forces did not make it stand out.
The first half of the concert included Three Russian Songs and the Spring Cantata, all by Rachmaninov (the London Philharmonic is featuring his work this season). These works are performed in Russia, but not so much outside. The London Philharmonic Choir and Ukrainian baritone Andrei Bondarenko built on the moving reading by Jurowski and the orchestra, although the chorus did sound a bit uncomfortable singing Russian.