Tuesday, August 10, 2021, Royal Albert Hall, London
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 7.30 p.m.
John Storgårds opened Schumann 3 as if it were a sunburst, introducing light and shade as required, and demonstrating that quality rehearsal time had been spent on dynamics and clarity, the BBC Philharmonic on exuberant and responsive form. The three middle movements were also well-judged in terms of tempo, airy detailing and shapely phrasing – descriptions to be made, not least when portraying the solemnity of Cologne Cathedral, Storgårds’s broad approach bringing dignity to this part of the tour, and then from reverence to the lightly tripping Finale, given a lively spring in the step, Storgårds avoiding ungainly emphases and false rhetoric.
Opening this Prom was Britta Byström’s fifteen-minute Parallel Universes [BBC commission: world premiere] – mysterious, atmospheric, active, and ear-tickling in its colours, particulars and scenic/expressive possibilities, taking us to the edge of the unknown and incorporating some interplanetary dancing.
As centrepiece, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, Liza Ferschtman replacing Jennifer Pike. She was charismatic (if not without the odd gremlin, the BBC Phil similarly) – compelling regarding tone and intensities, impassioned, intimate, fiery and eloquent; and she had by her side a damn fine Sibelius conductor (Storgårds has recorded the Seven Symphonies with the BBC Phil for Chandos). The “polar bears” said to be inhabiting the Finale – whether “polonaise” (Tovey) or “tango” (Ferschtman) – enjoyed a tea-dance, helped by observing the ma non tanto marking. For her encore, Fritz Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice, dedicated to Ysaÿe, the Concerto’s occasional slippery moment now banished, Ferschtman revelling.