Review – London Philharmonic Orchestra, Karina Canellakis and Pablo Ferrández play Shostakovich and Brahms


A captivating programme from beginning to end. Mussorgsky’s efficiently theatrical Prelude to Kohavanshchina prepared us nicely for cellist Pablo Ferrández’s epic performance of Shostakovich’s first cello concerto. Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 was a rendition brimming with a ‘beginning of the new term’ hope and expectation.  

Pablo Ferrández is an immensely likable performer whose resolutely committed playing makes for a gripping performance. The opening solo material ricocheted around the auditorium making it seem like members of the audience were whispering to one another throughout. The interplay between woodwind and solo cello was taut and imitative. Polished stuff.  

The second movement prayer had an intensely personal feel. Here Ferrández’s considerable expressive range was unequivocal, every sound committed and deeply personal; the extensive cadenza took us to another world.  

Shostakovich’s final movement feels throwaway in comparison. The emphatic applause was met with characteristic humility.  

Given the debacle occurring across the water in the House of Commons, Ferrández’s encore – Casal’s Song of the Birds – had the effect of refocusing hearts and minds. 

I paid a lot of money to hear Ferrández perform the Brahms Double with the LA Philharmonic in Los Angeles three and half weeks ago. As it turned out, I appreciated this performance 8 miles away far more.  

Brahms Symphony No. 4 was full of much-needed youthful aspiration. Taut pizzicato in the strings during the second movement. This was where the strings really came alive – especially in the cello section solo – everyone moving as one. Here the beginnings and ending of phrases were exquisitely precise. The concluding chord was dreamily exact. 

Two lasting memories need to be documented here. First, conductor Karina Canellakis’s baton technique – weighty, deliberate, and resolute – is a joy to watch.   

Secondly but no more importantly, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s first violins are at the present, utterly captivating. Every single player front and back have contributed so much to the overall sound. Everyone on point. If you’re looking for a recommended seat in the stalls, make it G27. Loved. Every. Minute.