Philharmonia Orchestra, St David's Hall

First published in What's On by

It’s not often you see the conductor at an orchestral concert take one step off the podium to get closer to his musicians.

But that wasn’t the extent of Andris Nelsons’s choreography on the platform at this appearance. It included a hands-on-hips shimmy to encourage a dance episode and some freestyle arm-waving with the baton (or without it). As they say in these parts, it could have had someone’s eye out.

These amusements aside, we were witnessing part of a meteoric flight by a conductor whose appointment as the next musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra confirms him as world-class.

The resident conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Latvian Nelsons has also been guest-conducting a Brahms cycle in London with the Philharmonia, at which this was an out-of-town peek.

One rarely hears the Academic Festival Overture performed with such a sense of something worth being rolled out in the interests of revealing its constituent merits. Plodding or rushed it was not.

The same with the Violin Concerto, its solo line played with unerring sympathy and a consistently singing tone by Christian Tetzlaff, another who is one of the best around. Neither soloist nor conductor compromised on the music’s emotions or its logical structure.

The Second Symphony might be Brahms ostensibly at peace with himself but only inspired playing and conducting can bring out its darker hues, however short-lived. The intensity and precision, and therefore the clarity, of the performance by an aristocratic orchestra were faultless. Nelsons goes for the unswerving every time, and it shows.

The concert was the latest in the Hall's International Series, the highlight of its annual offering of music. Next up is the period-instrument band Florilegium and its choir on March 13. The Philharmonia returns on April 4 under Edward Gardner and with cellist Natalie Clein in the Elgar concerto.

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