Early into this performance there is little doubt that Igar Stravinsky is the composer; his unmistakable phrasing and authenticity leave the listener reminiscing for the bygone era in which he worked and composed; the drama, emotion and environment are easily felt and seen.
The London Sympathy Orchestra and director Valerie Gergiev clearly love their work and take a risk by performing the repertoire in reverse order, almost mirroring the effect Stravinsky had in making the populace reflect and engage.
Much thought was clearly put into the overall look and feel of the performance; its success in this area rivaled that of the orchestra’s playing ability, which was tightly controlled and yet full of the emotion required when performing Stravinsky.
An almost historic simplicity to his writing is apparent, but a 20th version adds a little sophistication and elegance to these classic pieces. Yet the composer’s own sense of drama and gravitas is not overlooked in items like “Sanctus” with dark movements and harmonies giving a hard edge to the performances, giving the appropriate balance.
The composed but brilliant Leonidas Kavakos performed the Violin Concerto with some elegance and complemented the chorus and wind sections admirably, especially in a duet with Rachel Gough the first bassoonist.
With typical yet admirable haste, Gergiev wasted little time jumping straight into Stravinsky’s first ballet, The Firebird. The director clearly loves this piece and he performed his directing duties with such enthusiasm that one could be forgiven for thinking he had some empathy for the bird itself.
The orchestra responded to their director with just as much passion and excitement, albeit with discipline and control. The dramatic effect of the entire orchestra and audience being shrouded in darkness was as breathtaking as it was inspiring.