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Jess Gillam/Gianandrea Noseda, Barbican, review: The LSO as we’ve never seen them before

Generally there’s a vacant slot within the classical music star system which somebody surprising comes alongside to fill, and so it was with the teenage saxophonist Jess Gillam.

Now cosily hammocked on Radio 3 between the politically engaged Music Issues and the fruitfully exploratory Inside Music, her weekly programme, This Classical Life, brings a welcome new aspect to the Saturday morning combine.

You are reading: Jess Gillam/Gianandrea Noseda, Barbican, review: The LSO as we’ve never seen them before

Her model as presenter is chatty and cheerful, however on no account condescending, and she or he casts her web large, with no genres excluded. Her conversations with interviewees go on excessive of the music, however they usually convey illuminating concepts about it; listeners are invited to lob in their very own solutions as to what ought to be performed.

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Making her debut with the London Symphony Orchestra, as a part of the London Jazz Festival, with John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto, Gillam needed to area a googly earlier than she’d performed a observe: her music stand was far too excessive, and neither she nor conductor Gianandrea Noseda had been robust sufficient to wrestle it down. And if her jokey response helpfully broke the ice, it remained properly and really damaged for the following half-hour, because of her effervescent supply of this loopy work.

Impressed by the likes of Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, and Charlie Parker, this was jazz from begin to end, and Gillam produced some astonishing virtuosity. At instances her sound was pure bebop, punching out staccato barks like a boxer; in tandem with Noseda she galvanised the LSO as I’ve seldom heard them earlier than.

Adams’ description of the second motion of the work as “a species of funk-rondo” – with a closing exclamation from the sax like a musical “so there!” – appeared on this event notably apt.

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If there appeared a whole lot of new faces among the many orchestral gamers, it was as a result of this occasion was the climax of a fortnight’s intensive teaching for 11 younger musicians from the summer season college of the Music Academy in Santa Barbara – this being a part of the LSO’s outreach technique.

I couldn’t think about a greater exercise for them. The live performance opened with a rarity – an eloquent tone poem by Carlos Simon entitled This Land, which mused on the genesis of the Statue of Liberty – after which served up coruscating performances of two previous faithfuls, Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra, and Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

And if the Yankee swagger of the latter queasily evoked an America we’ve misplaced, the melting sweetness of the encore – “Summertime” – was balm on the wound.

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