Last night, the composer was Prokofiev, but, unlike last week's concert, this felt vital and fresh. The 4th Symphony was full of intensity, crisp and taut. The 2nd Violin Concerto seemed light years more advanced that the 1st, with Vadim Repin gliding effortlessly over fiendishly difficult figures. (Unusually, he and concertmaster Andrew Haveron shared the stage for an encore of the Sonata for Two Violins.)
Last night's LSO concert at Avery Fisher was a reminder of what separates good orchestras from great ones. It's not technical perfection - though that's certainly important. Nor is it pure passion, which in the wrong dosage can reduce the best of ensembles to an overeager student orchestra. No, the best orchestras are those who are able to fully absorb a composer's music and deliver it to an audience through their own, highly personal lens. In the best cases, it sounds both totally unique and perfectly convincing, leaving one mystified as to why it wasn't always performed that way.
But, the LSO saved its best for last. The 5th is probably Prokofiev's best known symphony, full of bombastic percussion and brass written during the depths of WWII. After a slow, almost prissy start, the orchestra - led by a smoldering Valery Gergiev - was soon in thunderous roar. By the 2nd movement, it felt as if the hall was on fire, and all I could think was: Noone light a match in here. Simply put: they played the shit out of it.
After a dark and brutal 3rd movement, Gergiev barely let the audience catch its breath before launching into the Allegro giococo finale, which basically brought it all down. I could barely take my eyes off Haveron, who tore into his violin like a lion into an antelope. After the final bars, the crowd roared as Gergiev called out different sections of the orchestra for solo bows.