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.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove