Review LSO & Barbara Hannigan, Bath Forum by James Ellis 

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Whilst the Bristol Beacon might not be open as of yet, the London Symphony Orchestra is getting some time in the nearby Bath at their Forum. This Art Deco wonder was the perfect space for their event with singer/conductor Barbara Hannigan in a concert of Messiaen and Mahler. 

In Messiaen ‘L’ascension’ we get glimpses of heaven, the brass woodwind and strings getting solos for the most part just for them. Early Messiaen is full of such promise. Stravinsky is there as an influence and you can hear the original voice soon to be blasted out, very French. 

The agonising last movement remains a highlight, the strings on their own plain. My plus one said there was no reference points for him, thus proving how out their Messiaen really is, even in his early days. Dense chords and the soon to be vital birdsong features and his Catholic faith is superimposed into all of his canon. Truly impressive.

Mahler’s 4th Symphony might not be my favourite of his, yet the LSO offered a really stellar offering. I don’t quite know about Hannigan’s conducting, a singer by trade she at times appears stiff and unanimated. She appears to be doing a bang up job with the orchestra as the symphony was a triumph, the jingle bells, Austrian angst and saddened irony was everywhere here. 

An hour in length, this meaty work sits between even larger Mahler symphonies and I feel this one sometimes gets over looked. Hannigan couldn’t offer us her USP for the night, where she both sings and conducts simultaneously, due to illness. Though a shame, the ‘child in heaven’ solo for the finale was taken by Greek wonder Aphrodite Patoulidou wrapping up with the touching, joyful thrill that mirrors Mahler’s own grief. I was rightfully won over by this Mahler. 

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