Fans Approve of Acoustics

Although musicians have been generally positive about the new acoustic design of the Royal Festival Hall since it was overhauled by sound engineers in 2007, audience reactions have been more mixed.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s latest release, Brahms Symphony 4 (SDG), weighs into the debate with evidence that the acoustics allow for an extraordinary amount of detail to be heard. Here, the venue feels like a perfect match for a conductor as keen on precision as Gardiner.

In line with his previous Brahms releases, he prefaces main work with orchestral and choral pieces (in this case by Beethoven, Gabrieli, Bach and Schütz) that influenced its composition: the result is a delightfully quirky piece of programming as well as a fascinating contextual journey leading up to the main event. Gardiner brings a delightful crispness and spontaneity to the work: he creates great sweeps of emotion without sacrificing inner details, and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique respond to him by playing with warmth and passion.

Their accuracy is matched by the Monteverdi Choir too: there should really be some kind of special award for the sharpness and unanimity of their diction.

Accuracy is important in performance, of course, but it’s never enough on its own. If it were, Craig Ogden’s The Guitarist (Classic FM CD) would be a treasure. There’s no faulting the Australian’s technique, and if you try to spot a misplaced finger-slide, you’ll try in vain. But that’s not enough to fire up this muzaky trawl through pieces ranging from Pachelbel’s Canon to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Maybe it’ll please someone who wants a background disc for their dinner party.