LPO/Jurowski review – a daring, outstan-ding Mahler 8th 5/5 stars
Performances of Gustav Mahler’s most ambitious symphony remain big events in every sense. Nothing Mahler wrote exhibits his claim that a symphony must contain the world more overtly. The annoying “Symphony of a Thousand” tag was early promotional hyperbole, but Vladimir Jurowski had at least 400 performers, including four choirs, eight soloists and the London Philharmonic under his control for this daringly conceived and outstandingly executed rendering of Mahler’s 8th. I don’t recall another performance of the piece in which Mahler’s gigantic assertion of artistic creativity shared the bill with any other composition. Yet what a bold starter Jurowski selected before the Mahlerian main course. Thomas Tallis’s 1570 motet Spem in Alium comes from another era altogether and the very opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum. Yet it, too, is a work of astonishing ambition and affirmation. With Jurowski directing eight 20-strong choral groups that ringed the auditorium, this was not a Spem in Alium for performance purists. But the seamless leap into Mahler’s first movement summons of the creative spirit was, undeniably, an amazing moment. Everything about the ensuing symphony, from the arrangement of the choral forces and soloists around the hall to the deftly deployed lighting, spoke of intelligent forethought harnessed to committed musicianship. Most impressive, and amid so much sonic enormity, was Jurowski’s constant care and control over dynamics, phrasing, balance and architecture. The orchestral detailing and choral moulding of the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust that takes up the symphony’s second part was compellingly done, with Judith Howarth and Anne Schwanewilms standing out in a strong group of soloists. But, lavishing care and attention on everything from delicate string portamentos to the brilliant timing of the final orchestral punch, this was very much Jurowski’s evening.