It took me longer than expected to write the review about last Saturday performance of Gurrelieder by London Symphony Orchestra conducted by its new principal conductor Simon Rattle. I had to think about it. Not only the performance but also the work, its meaning and its implications.

Let’s go first with the actual performance of it. The orchestra playing was brutally brilliant: technical perfection and supreme discipline following Mr. Rattle indications. The work was exposed with a mixture of strong dramatic intensity and delicacy. And here comes the first problem: all shades were told by those extremes, a global order from the conductor made the orchestra going from one pole to the order. The individual details of the rich orchestration were not taken care individually but globally. Taking care of all those details is an arduous task that needs a lot of work and rehearsals and probably, that is not possible with the schedule of both, orchestra and conductor (have you seen how many concerts does the LSO have this season?). So everything worked fine but I had the impression that a lot of things remained to be properly told.

And the second problem is also linked with the rehearsal time. To make a something like Gurrelieder, with such a big orchestra, soloists and choruses, to work properly the performance needs to be adapted to the space. Chorus placement and hall acoustics play a decisive role on how the music is sensed. This is commonly true for almost any musical experience but it is more relevant in a work that intends to astound the listener by size and number. And that is not possible in a festival like Proms having more than one concert each day. LSO and Rattle got probably only 4 hours to rehearsal in place. This is the perfect excuse for the problems some soloist had to project the voice over the massive orchestral sound. No blame to them, no blame to the orchestra, no blame to anyone, they were just the circumstances.

Summarizing, the music is amazing, the experience is amazing but some things didn’t work and I had the feeling that could be better.

Now about the work. I have to say that it was my first live Gurrelieder. I have some concerns about Schoenberg requirements of such big forces (almost 500 musicians!) and them being underused (really more than 100 singers that barely sing 3 minutes?). Do they have a meaning in the dramatic experience? Or is it just a form issue? Some kind of musical pornographic and empty exhibition of force? I am not sure. That’s why I am going to wait for next June Salomen performance with Philharmonia to form a proper opinion. I know, I am a bad guy which have been teasing…