BBC Philharmonic, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Tuesday 20 January 2004
To perform the orchestral music of Franz Liszt with the sympathy and sensitivity it demands, first find the right conductor. There aren't that many around. In its principal conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, the BBC Philharmonic has just the right man. And in an interestingly planned all-Liszt programme, Noseda brought the composer into sharper focus as a fascinating and important influence in the 19th century.
Of the bombastic vulgarity that is all too readily associated with Liszt, once dismissed for his Hungarian background and religious fervour as "half gipsy, half priest", there was not a trace here. And where some, in dealing with the trickier aspects of his music, simply play fast and loud - making it even more flamboyant and excessive - Noseda brought refinement, subtlety and colour.
The programme featured three of the threads that ran through the composer's long life. There was the Abbé Liszt's Franciscan side, in the rarely performed orchestral versions of Two Legends. The first, St Francis of Assisi Preaching to the Birds, contains vivid pre-echoes of Messiaen in its woodwind twitterings and stringy tremolandos. The second Legend is based on another St Francis - this time of Paolo - forced by a truculent ferryman to walk on water, across the Straits of Messina. It opens with a shimmering introduction of a chorale, which sails through the tempestuous deeps only to be succeeded by another religious quotation at the end. By this time the saint has safely weathered the pictorial orchestral storms that threaten to engulf him, the turbulence at the climax beautifully judged by Noseda and his players.
Liszt's Second Piano Concerto presents a different picture of the composer, as a virtuoso pianist. Enrico Pace, the winner of the Liszt Piano Competition, covered the whole keyboard with ease, conveying the contrasts between the work's mercurial pianissimos, dramatic outbursts and bravura passage work. That it was the soloist's show never detracted from the BBC PO's responsive account of its part, stylish in phrasing and shading.
In the Faust Symphony, three character sketches of Goethe's protagonists, Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles, we had yet another of Liszt's obsessions. The first movement, dedicated to the Faustian hero himself, contained some beautifully sculpted lines, the wayward opening setting the scene for an expressive realisation of Liszt's vision, intimate in the solo strings of the central Gretchen section and devilishly agile in the Mephistophelean finale. The purely orchestral ending of this three-part original version said it all: Gretchen had redeemed Faust, without the help of any fourth movement and men's choir. It spoke volumes for Noseda's interpretation and the orchestra's trans- formation from good to evil.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband deemed less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson by official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: New film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter reacts to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'