On Sunday, 27 October, the LSO String Ensemble performed Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra, Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra and Dvořák’s Serenade for String Orchestra in the Barbican Hall. The LSO’s string sound is world renowned, and on this stormy October evening they did not disappoint.
This being the first LSO String Ensemble performance to be recorded by LSO Live, expectations were high. Before the concert began, I popped backstage for a quick check-in with sound engineers Jonathan Stokes and Neil Hutchinson (a.k.a. Classic Sound) and producer James Mallinson. With a successful rehearsal under their belt, there was a quiet confidence in the air. This was going to be special.
There was another first to add to the mix – Classic Sound trialed the new Pyramix recording software. The new system is much more streamlined and compact, but as this was their first time using it in concert, the pressure was on. There’s not much that can be done when your software crashes midway through a live recording, but luckily this time there was no such trouble!
As the performance began, it struck me – it’s not often you witness the LSO without a conductor. But LSO Leader Roman Simovic guided the ensemble through with confidence and ease, an occasional nod and bow wave. Using only a third of the Barbican stage, the 26 musicians stood for the duration of the performance, producing lush sounds that penetrated every corner of the hall. The concert opened with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade - a beautifully lyrical, romantic piece. During the second movement, Valse: moderato, the players lilted from side to side, while their bows remained perfectly in synch, giving the performance a sort of balletic quality. Bartók’s Divertimento that followed set a much darker tone. This piece was written during a time when a rather more serious storm was brewing – World War II. At the 1940 premiere, a critic wrote, “Will the creative forces that stirred here be able to survive against the raging forces of annihilation, the violence that leads to total extermination of life?”
A quick check with the producer during the interval reveals the mood is relaxed and the musicians are happy – all has gone well so far. Fortunately, the high level of the performance carried through to the end of the second half with Dvořák’s Serenade. The only problem left for the musicians and audience alike – will the trains be running?!
Now that the recording is done (and everyone is home safe), so begins the sometimes lengthy editing, mixing and mastering phase. The musicians will hear the first edit, and comment on whether they think it’s up to their usual high standard. If passed, LSO Live will schedule for release and begin work on production of CDs and artwork – we’ll let you know how it’s going in a later update!