BBC SO/Tortelier/Graham, Barbican, London
Tuesday 28 December 2004
Six names deserve mention in connection with this evening, and two of them weren't even involved with the concert under review. The BBC Symphony Orchestra's final programme of its pre-Christmas series was preceded by a ceremony, at Ironmongers' Hall, to hand out the British Composer Awards, presented by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in association with BBC Radio 3 and sponsored by the Performing Right Society; and of the 11 awards made, Judith Bingham picked up two. So congratulations to her; such schemes may not mean a great deal in the long run, but if they further raise the profile of British composers such as Bingham, they can't be a bad thing.
Back in the Barbican Hall, Yan Pascal Tortelier's half-English, half-French programme was dedicated to the remarkable Sidonie Goossens, harpist of the BBC SO for no fewer than 50 years, who died recently aged 105. The concert's opening item was Anthony Payne's Visions and Journeys, his Prom commission of 2002, which received the BBC Radio 3 Listeners' Award last year. The work is impeccably scored and intermittently effective as an unfolding sequence of contrasting images and moods inspired by holidays on the Isles of Scilly, yet its musical material and development didn't strike me as any stronger than it did on first hearing. I can think of quite a few underplayed British orchestral compositions of the last decades that memory suggests would better repay revival; the somewhat underwhelming applause of a modest-sized, mainly "professional", audience suggested that they thought much the same.
The American soprano Susan Graham was the soloist in Ravel's Sheherazade and Debussy's Le Livre de Baudelaire, the latter orchestrated by John Adams. Radiant in orange, yellow and green, Graham was at every instant the actress as well as the singer, even when performing the Debussy from the score. She compelled attention with each facial expression and hand gesture as well as with a subtle range of timbres and eager, but never exaggerated attentiveness to the ebb and flow of both composers' text-setting. In the second Ravel song, "La flute enchantée", Daniel Pailthorpe's sultry solo flute was the perfect match for her.
As well as providing elegant and musical accompaniments for these items, and sterling service for Payne, Tortelier and the BBC SO offered a vivid account of Elgar's In the South (Alassio), digging into this sometimes surprising score with a will and alert, also, to its more lyrical moments. The BBC is keeping back its announcement of this orchestra's new Principal Conductor and Principal Guest Conductor until next month, I'm told; but even if Tortelier doesn't feature on this little list, he must certainly continue to be signed up to appear regularly on the BBC SO's podium.
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
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The scientist who takes 100 drugs a day so he can live to 150
- 2 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark 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'
The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
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
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds