If Nicholas Maw had stopped writing in his twenties, we would say similar things about Scenes and Arias. When it was new, more than 30 years ago, it shocked people. At a time when exploratory sounds were the convention, Maw let it be led by three lyrical female voices. The orchestra is colour, continuity and supporting argument. It isn't 'easy' music to listen to, but it radiates an unmistakable sense of enjoying the traditional means and materials of Western music in Maw's own way.
This, therefore, was music that wouldn't change the world. But, oh yes, it did. Hearing it now, you might think it had been written yesterday, apart from superficial touches of Sixties spikiness; it's the music from that time by Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle that sounds dated. Maw, trusting his instinct to go where others feared, turns out to have been the one who was on course all along.
Mark Elder, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, had the measure of its expansive paragraphs. For singers like Susan Bickley and Jean Rigby, it sounded a gift, and while Elizabeth Woollett sounded awkward at the high, florid opening, she soon became part of a serene, sensuous threesome.
We should really blame Beethoven. Only he ever reached the seasoned state that produced the symphonies and concertos of his thirties, and still went on developing. Is there a more perfect embodiment of it than his Fourth Piano Concerto? You probably won't think so if you heard Mitsuko Uchida's performance.
It took every opportunity to make expressive points at leisure, but so exact was the touch, so concentrated the guiding thought, that even the sometimes puzzling finale sounded a true and inevitable culmination.
Writing In the South at 47, Elgar must give heart to struggling oldies. Indeed he had only just got there: it can be done. (But maybe only by Bruckner or Janacek apart from him.) The music has the unstoppable energy of Strauss's early tone poems, for many of the same reasons. In the most polished orchestral performance of the evening, Elder brought a fetching light touch to the poetic episodes amid the prevailing athletic momentum.Reuse content