Zum Konzert am 1. September 1978 in Edinburgh

The Scotsman, 2. September 1978 

Memorable Schubert

London Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado: Usher Hall

Starting a concert with Schubert’s Eighth Symphony is a dangerous piece of programme-building, as was evident last night, for although it was presumably meant to open the gates to the rest of the concert it was given so considerable a performance by Abbado and the LSO that it almost closed them again behind itself.

From the beginning it was clear that this interpretation had long outgrown the Midsummer Night’s Dream atmosphere which is so often forced on the opening, and as the music built upon itself it produced an impression of magisterial control and evolution. The second movement had a memorable calm which was beautifully sustained.

After this it was hard to make the mental transition to Mozart’s baritone concert arias, sung as they were with characteristic fluency and impeccable phrasing by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Strawinsky’s Pulcinella, however, certainly broke the spell. Abbado conducted this almost ruthlessly fast, at times giving the impression that instead of a real orchestra he was conducting an imaginary one whose players were not subject to tire – some things like physical fatigue and the need to breathe occasionally.

There were moments where the co-ordination faltered, but when the tempi worked they were exhilarating. Theresa Berganza, Ryrand Davies and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau were stylish and witty soloists, although even they seemed sometimes overawed by the orchestral acrobatics, as well they might have been.

Finally there was a splendid performance of the Firebird Suite which, in addition to the vivid colours of the fast sections, produced some rare examples of magically quiet playing from the full orchestra.

Susan Tomes

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