Classical; London Philharmonic Youth Orcehstra; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Tuesday 09 January 1996
In their first concert of the year, at the QEH on Sunday, they rang the changes on the three Bs - Britten, Birtwistle and Beethoven - to make intriguing, if unlikely, partners in an evening of gripping musicianship conducted by Andrea Quinn. By way of prelude, the impressionism of Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes put the orchestral talent in perspective. The unadorned lines of "Dawn" showed up some hesitant articulation in the violins; a rogue player was apt to intrude an aura of brushed open string resonance in quiet passages. But the discipline of "Sunday Morning", "Moonlight" and the violent, Mahlerian "Storm" was impressive, with Quinn's fierce, extrovert direction, overbearing at first, clearly emerging as a force that was willing the players in the direction she wanted.
Come Gawain's Journey, Birtwistle's extraction of music from his second full-length opera, the band had found their stride. Trumpet and euphonium replaced operatic voices, imparting a haunting cavernous timbre to the whole. The broad gestures were incisively delivered: the plangent fanfare that marked Gawain's decapitation of the Green Knight, and the shuddering bass drum signalling the last throes of the orchestral frenzy that is the third and final vision of the hunt. With the exception of an oboe lullaby, the piece was obstinately loud. Even so, more judicious balancing of strings, wind and brass would have enhanced the illusion of dramatic power and space. So often in contemporary scores, the regions that separate the main thematic signposts become receptacles for bland atonal padding. Not so in this work. Significant details followed a life of their own: for example, the pattern of fan-like chords spreading outwards through the texture at various points, which unveiled intriguing new sounds at each reappearance.
Though rarely associated with Birtwistle's musical ethos, Beethoven was himself a composer obsessed by exploring a "certain idea" of dynamic movement, uniquely his own and uniquely expressed in his Seventh Symphony. Though some shaky woodwind entries and horns, clearly tired by their previous exertions, took the shine off Sunday's performance, this was a spirited account of a broad-limbed work whose boundless energy requires a firm hand. Orchestral flaws seemed most poignant in the exposed pages of the slow movement. Elsewhere, it was Quinn's unyielding rhythmic drive that proved the dominant force, whether in the dancing first movement or the finale's motoric conclusion.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 2 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Black-ish: America's new 'racist' TV sitcom has had a mixed reception
Cilla, episode 3, ITV - review: Ed Stoppard steals the limelight as Beatles manager Brian Epstein
The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
The Jungle Book: A tale as old as time
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >