Alexei Tanovitski's outstanding Tiresias stole the show.


LSO/Gergiev – review

Barbican, London

Valery Gergiev's Stravinsky retrospective with the LSO continued with a pair of concerts in which the Russian maestro's erratic variability was much in evidence. The programme for each consisted of two stage works, and the first – a chamber concert juxtaposing Renard with The Soldier's Tale – showed Gergiev's Stravinsky at its finest.

Both works are difficult, complex and austere. Renard – dramatising traditional cock and fox tales for four male singers who swap roles throughout – is a modernist masterpiece that can seem forbidding. The Soldier's Tale, in which a Faustian narrative serves as a metaphor for both the catastrophes of monetarism and the postwar alienation of its soldier hero, hits all sorts of raw nerves, but is too long for its own good. Both were done, however, with crisp precision and acerbic wit. Simon Callow enjoyed himself narrating The Soldier's Tale, while singers from the Mariinsky did wonderful things with Renard.

Alexei Tanovitski's outstanding Tiresias stole the show.

The second concert, pairing The Rite of Spring with Oedipus Rex, was altogether more equivocal. Gergiev's interpretation of Rite, measured and ceremonial rather than frenzied, is familiar in the UK, though he has also performed it with considerably more power on previous occasions. There were some imprecisions in playing and ensemble this time around, too.

Oedipus brought a return to orchestral form, and there was some exemplary singing from the men of the London Symphony Chorus.

Gergiev's understanding of the score's ratchet-like intensity was also sympathetic and acute. The problems lay with the inconsistency of the Mariinsky cast. Alexei Tanovitski's outstanding Tiresias stole the show. Things were gravely hampered, however, by Zlata Bulycheva's vibrato-ridden Jocasta, while Sergei Semishkur as Oedipus sang with glowing tone but too little dynamic or expressive range to be convincing.

Tim Ashley, Wednesday 16 May 2012