by Rachel Beaumont

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Go Go Gimeno: Ligeti, Salonen, Bartók and Mahler with the Philharmonia at the Southbank

​Ligeti's Concert românesc, Salonen's Pentatonic etude for solo viola, Bartók's Viola Concerto and Mahler's First Symphony
Lawrence Power, Gustavo Gimeno and Philharmonia Orchestra
Royal Festival Hall
Side Stalls Z52, £9.90 (multi-buy discount from £11)
1 June 2017
Southbank page

I last saw the Philharmonia play Mahler 1 at the Proms last year, where it was minorly disastrous. Not so here: even with some fluffs this was an extremely enjoyable, at times powerfully moving performance. It was, of course, a collective effort, but I want to single out two people. One is double bassist Neil Tarlton, whose second-movement solo was beautifully played, softly melancholic and absolutely bang in tune (well, very nearly).

The second is conductor Gustavo Gimeno, whom I've not seen before. He seems to be of the efficient, undemonstrative breed, which gets no complaints from me. He had clear ideas about how to manage the Mahler, most specifically on the transitions within movements. At their finest these moments achieved a wondrous sense of natural growth – not so much of improvisation, given the scale of the sounds involved, but more of light emerging from darkness. I was trembling as I left the hall.

The rest of the programme was also very strong. I didn't know the Concert românesc but it has lots of exciting proto-mature Ligeti elements, including a playful exploration of extremes of pitch and texture. Lawrence Power is of the do-no-wrong set in my mind and his performance of the Salonen etude, which was new to me, was entirely engrossing. What I expected to be my favourite piece of the programme, the Bartók, actually suffered from what felt to me like disengagement on the part of the orchestra, but with Power at the helm it was still an enjoyable account.

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