How refreshing, not five days after the 250th birthday of "the master", to have a Mozart-free zone - indeed, a Shostakovich-free zone, too. The London Philharmonic Orchestra's quirky programme - with the welcome fingerprints of its guest conductor, Marin Alsop, all over it - comprised a couple of 20th-century ballet scores, framing a trio of British compositions by young composers. As billed, Erik Satie's Parade and Igor Stravinsky's Jeu de Cartes were supposed to bookend the programme, with Thomas Adès, Mark-Anthony Turnage and James MacMillan providing the filling. But that was before Turnage's Hidden Love Song, an LPO, South Bank Centre, Risor Festival of Chamber Music and Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie commission, had turned up. Programming is a delicate art and in this programme three works were natural "enders". Fortunately, the Satie and the Stravinsky could frame Adès's Chamber Symphony, and the second half worked well with Turnage followed by MacMillan's intense and violent The Confession of Isobel Gowdie.
Parade dates from 1917, when it was first performed by the Diaghilev company in Paris to (yet) another Parisian scandal. The inconsequential scenario is by Cocteau, Picasso designed the set and costumes, while Satie piled in using sirens, a typewriter, gunshots and a "bottleophone" (10 brown bottles were splendidly mounted at the back of the stage). Ensemble was not the tightest, but sheer exuberance and dottiness carried all - a score that happily can stand alone.
Less happily standing alone was the Stravinsky. The spikiness was muted, Alsop apparently keener to keep the dance rhythms loping along than fuss too much with the intricacies of the rhythmic writing. I longed for the cards, remembering the pithiness of Balanchine's choreography.
Adès wrote the Chamber Symphonyat university. He threw everything at it, embracing flexitone frenzy and string slitheriness, but the talent was there.
Turnage's new work is a song without words, the vocal part taken by Martin Robertson on soprano saxophone. Written as a gift to his fiancée, it is a touchingly tender piece, but not without intense moments and beautifully coloured instrumentation, not least the tinkle of a harpsichord.
MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie remains a virtuoso piece for orchestra, and the LPO rose to the occasion.Reuse content