Prom 35: Williams, Osborne, BBC Phil, Storgards; Prom 36: Bevan, Spence, Callow, Hallé, Elder
Royal Albert Hall
Friday 10 August 2012
Steven Osborne is one of the unsung heroes of British pianism. This 40-year-old Scot tends to be typecast as a Beethoven and Schubert man, but he can create subtle spells with Ravel and Debussy: how would he handle Grieg’s ‘Piano Concerto in A minor’?
I’ve heard more barnstorming performances - and he played the opening theme with too-classical restraint - but once embarked on its elaborations, he brought out in full the music’s sheer lust for life.
And when he came to the cadenza he knew how to draw the focus in close, fastidiously allowing the poetry to flower, and giving the passage-work noble authority.
The adagio became a finely-judged duet between piano and orchestra, and if his playing in the rumbustious finale was a trifle too refined for its own good in this vast space, he suggested by his choice of encore - Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s love-song ‘Widmung’ - that the recital hall was his preferred habitat.
Everything in this long concert - bookended by Sibelius symphonies - came directly or indirectly from Nordic lands, including Per Norgard’s Symphony No 7, here getting its UK premiere.
And if the purpose of this work proved teasingly elusive, with its intricate games with multiple voices and tempi - Norgard delights in setting ideas running like hares, then corralling them neatly - one was constantly reminded of his admiration for Sibelius.
And it’s no shame to Norgard to say that Sibelius’s Sixth - here luminously played by the BBC Philharmonic under John Storgards’s direction - remained just as intriguing, despite being ninety years older.
This concert’s one disappointment lay in Delius’s setting of ‘Cynara’, Ernest Dowson’s world-weary poem with its immortal line ‘I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion’. Baritone Roderick Williams made heroic efforts to breathe life into this oddly characterless piece, but to no avail.
The day after his triumph in the Covent Garden ‘Meistersinger’ last December, Toby Spence was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, necessitating surgery and intensive vocal therapy: in Prom 36, with Simon Callow, Sophie Bevan, Mark Elder and the Hallé, he celebrated the life and evergreen work of Ivor Novello.
He was wisely careful with his high notes, but all the old colour has come back into his voice, so a heartfelt welcome back.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in September 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain