Prom 26: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Fischer, Royal Albert Hall
Wednesday 05 August 2009
Heinz Holliger is both the greatest oboist in the world, and Switzerland’s most significant contemporary composer. And he's celebrating his seventieth birthday in style, having just recorded a piece entitled "HBHH" - "Happy Birthday Heinz Holliger" - by the centenarian Elliott Carter. Meanwhile ECM has just released his extraordinary "Romancendres".
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out the symbolism in that title, which is made up of the French words for "novel" and "ashes", but you need a taste for code-cracking to appreciate the convoluted creativity which went into that work's making. The tortured relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann has never been so subtly reflected, as in this ghostly rumination on a work which Schumann's anguished widow burnt, leaving just a few clues to how it would have sounded. "I wanted to listen to the sound of those ashes," Holliger said recently, "to see what they could create."
This metaphor might also stand for "(S)irato", the Holliger piece which got its belated UK premiere in Prom 26. And its title plays a similar game, being a superimposition of words from two languages: the Italian "irato", meaning "enraged", and "Sirato", being the Hungarian for a funeral lament. Holliger's lament is for his composition teacher, the Hungarian composer Sandor Veress, whose quest for citizenship outside the Communist world he tirelessly championed. And though the work is subtitled "Monody for large orchestra" - suggesting a single musical line - it's some time before we realise that that is indeed what it is.
It starts with a series of muffled outbursts, some of them bright and high, others low and rumbling, in an unrelenting atmosphere which was effectively set up by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, under Thierry Fischer's incisive baton. Gradually one realises that its seeming randomness is meticulously controlled, and that the buzz, grumble, and shriek is a dour form of "embellishment". A cimbalom is heard, and the string players briefly strum their instruments "quasi guittara": as the sound-world becomes Hungarian, the sonic mists clear, and a shining beauty emerges, leaving in its wake a wonderful stillness. It seemed a pity to dissipate this stillness with Prokofiev’s exuberant "Romeo and Juliet", well-played though that was.
The first half of the evening was devoted to Mendelssohn, with a glittering performance of his first symphony, and with Isabelle Faust as the excellent soloist in an exquisitely refined account of his Violin Concerto.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Hard line on immigration could cost Tories the election