Vladimir Jurowski Conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra [DVD Video]

Vladimir Jurowski

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Vladimir Jurowski Conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra [DVD Video] Review

by James Leonard

The concert documented on this two-DVD set from September 19, 2007, was Vladimir Jurowski's first appearance as music director of the London Philharmonic. To judge by the performances here, it was a landmark moment in the orchestra's history. The cogent program joins Wagner's luminously spiritual Prelude from Parsifal, Berg's apocalyptically atonal Three Pieces for Orchestra and Mahler's grim fairy tale Das klagende Lied. Filmed in Royal Festival Hall and directed by Rhodri Huw, the cameras here move so smoothly from the conductor to the sections, the principals, and the soloists that the viewers' attention is drawn through the music as if following the score.

Jurowski is both a commanding and collaborative conductor, leading his forces confidently through a seamless performance of the Parsifal Prelude, a harrowing performance of the Three Pieces, and a haunting Das klagende Lied. The London Philharmonic not only follows Jurowski, it works with him. The richly blended wind and string sonorities in the Wagner and the edgy brass and brutal percussion solos in the Berg are the result of taking cues from the conductor and then returning strongly individualized responses.

Given the larger scope of the original three-movement version of Mahler's youthful cantata, Jurowski must assert himself more to keep the music and the drama moving. He rises to the challenge by directing a powerfully affecting performance that never drags but always surges unstoppably forward. Though some might not be convinced by Jurowski's unauthorized use of a boy soprano, he and the remainder of the soloists in Das klagende Lied are consistently heartfelt and capable. The London Philharmonic Chorus is outstanding, with superb diction and a tone adaptable to everything from baleful to magnificent. If this is what the start of Jurowski's tenure with the London Philharmonic is like, it bodes well for the orchestra's future.