Vladimir Jurowski has received strong critical acclaim for characteristically demanding and inventive programming at his opening concerts of the 17/18 season.

In Bucharest, for the opening of the 2017 George Enescu International Festival, of which he is Artistic Director, he led the London Philharmonic in a concert performance of Enescu’s masterpiece Oedipe, and one of the towering, though under-appreciated, operas of the 20th century. Bachtrack’s reviewer praised the evening as “musically triumphant […] Enescu’s music, with its long, sweeping phrases, is clearly inspired by Wagner, yet Jurowski made sure to highlight other influences as well as Enescu’s own idiosyncracies.” (Bachtrack)

The performance was then repeated to open his 10th season as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, leading to further glowing notices:

“…a superb achievement that made the strongest possible case for the work. Jurowski mined Enescu’s textures for all they were worth. The playing was exemplary as darkening strings and growling brass tracked Oedipe’s descent into psychological and physical darkness, and luminous woodwind marked his eventual emergence into light and spiritual understanding.” (The Guardian)

“…total understanding and mastery of a unique style – or styles – that only Vladimir Jurowski could achieve with his musical partner of a decade’s standing, the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Jurowski had the measure of every mood, conducting with his usual clarity and supple authority…” (The Arts Desk)

“…the real aural image to take away from this concert performance was the originality and resourcefulness of Enescu’s orchestral writing. Jurowski drew out every remarkable sonority in the score. From the delectable fluting of the shepherd’s piping and the Arcadian dances to the thunderous music for Laius’ murder, from the sepulchral yet unearthly sounds for the Sphinx to the golden glow that suffuses the final scene of Oedipus’s death and transfiguration, the LPO musicians really surpassed themselves in playing of élan, subtlety and virtuosity.” (Bachtrack)

In between, the London Philharmonic had made another powerful impact at their annual appearance at the BBC Proms:

“This Prom was typical of Jurowski’s genius for intelligent, musically astute programming: Stravinsky’s Funeral Song at one end, and Shostakovich Symphony no 11, two pillars, with Britten’s Russian Funeral as supporting buttress, with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no 1 in D between them.” “Though Jurowski, by nature, is a gentle person, he can be intensely passionate when he needs to be, as truly spiritual people often are.  Where once the soldiers marched on the people, the people now march forth in triumph.  Fanfares can be banal, but Jurowski’s clear minded intelligence doesn’t degenerate.” (Classical Iconoclast)

“Vladimir Jurowski is not a flamboyant personality on the podium: he projects no sense of histrionics to the audience or of domineering to his players. But his simple, clear leadership gets results. The Eleventh clocks in at over an hour, with a great deal of it slow and repetitive, but in the hands of Jurowski and London Philharmonic Orchestra, the intensity never flagged.” (Bachtrack)

“a stunning interpretation of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 11 that emphasised the music’s own colossal if slowly ignited emotions.” (The Times)

Over on the continent, Jurowski’s tenure as Chief Conductor of the Rundfunk-sinfonieorchester Berlin (the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra) began with a pair or powerful and pointed concerts. Shirley Apthorp of the Financial Times delineated clearly the sense of purpose and intention that always underpins Jurowski’s inventive and challenging programming:

“There will be no easy listening here. Vladimir Jurowski took up the reins as chief conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin on Sunday night with an unmistakeable severity of intent. Isang Yun, Arnold Schoenberg, Luigi Nono, and Mahler’s version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony: this was a programme with no short cuts that made an uncompromising demand for the full engagement of the listener. Jurowski means business, and his business is serious.”

“Beethoven’s 5th, seen here through the lens of Mahler’s lavish re-orchestration […] is a radical act — a step away from an approach informed by the period, towards an exploration of a different kind of historical performance practice, that of the early 20th century. It enables Jurowski to shape his phrases with the arresting drama of a different era, and to conjure a sound world that reaches back to the time when his orchestra was founded. Above all, it allows the listener no quarter. This is not Beethoven’s 5th as you thought you knew it. Nor is it the Mahler you thought you knew. Stay awake. This is something new.” (Financial Times)

“It was, of course, a splendid experience in itself to hear Beethoven via Mahler, but it was not just that; we heard more, I think, of Beethoven ‘as Beethoven’ too. Moreover, simply to hear a full-sized orchestra, still more one on such splendid form as the RSB, let loose on this music – sixteen first violins down to eight double basses – is an opportunity all too rare today too. Doubling of wind made perfect sense in such a hall and on such an occasion too. Yes, of course it is not strictly ‘necessary’, but what is? If we go down that route, we might as well all stay at home and listen to recordings – or indeed to nothing at all. To hear, for instance, the oboe solo in the first movement not as a solo at all was fascinating, especially when played as well as it was here. We doubtless will not hear it like that next time, but we might have the memory in some sense with us, offering a different, reflective standpoint on what we hear. Moreover, the first movement as a whole burst forth with all the radicalism of Beethoven’s almost incredible gift for concision.” (Boulezian)

Three days later, and again with Jurowski prefacing a popular masterwork with a short vocal work that illuminates the political and philosophical context of the major score, in this case Schoenberg’s knotty yet luminous acappella setting of Psalm 130 ‘De Profundis’, the roof was fittingly raised on the Berlin Philharmonie by Mahler’s majestic Second Symphony. The Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten wrote:

“The RSB’s new boss held this convulsive of the score fearlessly in his hands, kept a cool head, and could see exactly which musical energies needed to let off steam. What painstaking rehearsal work was evident in this evening, in a score which is by no means risk-free. The overblown giganticism was counteracted by a depth and a sonic expansiveness, which made many performances pale by comparison.” (The Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten)