REVIEWS: CLASSICAL - BBC SO / Knussen Barbican London oooo9
Thursday 10 February 2005
Making a disturbing curtain-raiser, Michael Tippett's Praeludium for Brass, Bells and Percussion (1962) resonated with muted horn calls and agitated trumpet flourishes. Scored for the back desks of the orchestra, it gave rise to the spectacle of Knussen conducting across several rows of empty chairs, a visual effect which complemented the distanced celebrations of Praeludium's muffled fanfares. Uncharacteristically wanting in warmth and immediacy, this remote and unsettling work amounted to enigmatic shavings from the workbench of Tippett's recently completed King Priam.
In contrast, Gunther Schuller's Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, from 1959, communicated instantly. The most memorable movement, "Arab Village", skilfully incorporated Arabian folk tunes, evocatively breathed into life by an off-stage flute. "Little Blue Devil" entertained with its bluesy main theme, conductor and orchestra both urbane enough to pull off the jazz elements and avoid the usual knees-up-in-a-morgue effect produced when classically trained orchestral players attempt to swing.
After the interval, Oliver Knussen was presented with the Association of Orchestras Award. Nicholas Kenyon rightly praised Knussen's work as a tireless advocate of modern composers, and in particular his championing of British music. In reply, Knussen paid tribute to the BBC SO, describing them as one of the "undersung treasures" of the orchestral life of this country, claiming they could "play anything anybody chooses to hurl at them".
As if to prove the point, the concert continued with the UK premiere of Elliott Carter's three-minute fiendish firecracker Micomicon (2002). The conductor seized the opportunity to play the compact but richly resourceful work twice, teasing out the complex strands of Carter's teeming invention still further.
Micomicon is inspired by an episode from Don Quixote, and the concert ended with Richard Strauss's vivid depiction of the Spanish knight. Knussen's laser-like dissection of the score cut through decades' worth of accrued interpretational stodge. Strauss originally notated the solo cello part to be played by the principal cellist of the orchestra, and Paul Watkins created a delightful sense of collaboration with his BBC colleagues, while grabbing the big solos with swaggering charisma tempered by a poetic sensitivity. The ending of the work, with the dying Quixote reflecting on his ideals, was artlessly moving.
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
Arts & Ents blogs
The desolation of the Weinstein brothers: Film producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
Christmas songs: the best and the worst
X Factor winners: Where are they now?
Your Money, Money, Money please - Abba ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
Lost Peter Sellers films Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You hailed as the movie equivalent of 'finding Dead Sea Scrolls'
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 John McAfee's $100 'anti-NSA' device: 'this is coming and cannot be stopped'
- 3 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 4 Is Facebook making us forget? Study shows that taking pictures ruin memories
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding