According to BBC news on Monday, Osvaldo Golijov may be "the first truly great 21st-century composer". This Argentine-born Jewish sensation doesn't lack for high-profile advocates.
Golijov's work might also be entirely honestly born of his own roots. Yet it's easy (too easy?) to make it sound like the ultimate and oh-so-politically-correct, postmodern mix with nothing to say for itself beyond attention-seeking. I tried hard to resist this latter interpretation, I really did. But on this night, I largely failed.
The strings of the BBC Symphony, under Roberto Minczuk, played a new version of the 10-year-old Last Round. The "sublimated tango" of its first movement is nicely balanced with darker tendencies; but the slow second movement is mere kitsch.
Tekyah impressively ranges 10 shofars - Jewish ram's horns - at the back of the stage, concluding an Auschwitz-inspired composition initially dominated by keening klezmer clarinet (the ever-effervescent David Krakauer). But at five minutes, the piece is too short for its material to tell.
Ainadamar Arias and Ensembles, including women's chorus and full orchestra, is a collection of numbers, heard in premiere here, from Golijov's recent Lorca-inspired opera. Dawn Upshaw, Jessica Rivera and Kelley O'Connor did wonders with their vocal roles. But, one or two ecstatic moments aside, the impression was not of a new vision of "these melodies bleed[ing] out of the collision of three major cultures of Spain - Arab, Jewish and Christian," but rather of a relentless ragbag of styles, with some dramatic posing and orchestral trickery to cover its essential emptiness. Perhaps it works better in the opera house.
Upshaw was largely responsible for making the ritualised vacuities of Ayre (medieval Spanish for "melody") just about bearable. This song sequence of traditional "world music" tunes, plus a few by Golijov, played out with Upshaw encircled by the 11 musicians of The Andalucian Dogs, and some cheap sound and lighting effects. It proved an overlong arranging job with the odd wacky moment of inspiration.
A truly great 21st-century composer? I think not.Reuse content