by Rachel Beaumont

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Not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening: Bartók and Mahler at the Southbank Centre

Bartók's Concerto for two pianos, percussion and orchestra and Mahler's Symphony no.6
Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Tamara Stefanovich, Emmanuel Curt and Antoine Siguré
Royal Festival Hall
7 May 2017
Side Stalls Z53, £9.90 (reduced from £11 with multibuy offer)
Southbank Centre page

'Haven't we seen these both quite recently?', asked David. Yes, we have – but how fortunate for us that these two masterful, challenging pieces should now count as repertory staples.

I didn't envy Salonen, for whom this must have been an exhausting evening. Nor I suppose did I envy the orchestral players, who mostly looked extremely bored through most of the Bartók (to be fair they probably weren't bored and just counting/concentrating). From an audience perspective, though, it was wonderful to hear these two magnificent works performed together, on the whole to a very high standard.

The four excellent soloists in the Bartók I don't think could have performed it any better. There was so much evident musicality and consummate concentration on show, resulting in perfect ensemble and seemingly complete union of thought. There was nothing to fault and everything to celebrate.

The performance of the Mahler was not at quite the same level, with a handful of small counting and note-reading errors strewn throughout the piece. But after all this is a long and taxing work, and it was still very enjoyable. Add to that some important moments were absolutely perfect, most prominently all the solos by the glorious principal horn player Nicholas Black.

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