Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

I’ve not heard Johan Dalene’s BIS recording of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (but this,, did come my way, and his recital release with Christian Ihle Hadland is also impressive), so his Proms performance of Barber’s lyrical, passionate and (Finale) fiery Concerto was welcome, on paper. The first movement was a little indulged, if attractively intimate, Dalene’s tone a tad thin, although the mid-point was unexpectedly dark – soloist and Jordan de Souza in agreement – as the music builds to a climax, sinks into reverie and anticipates the pathos of the oboe-led Andante (here a second Adagio, and also becoming soporific – which didn’t stop either being ruinously clapped – and Dalene had a few scratchy moments), so the energy and rhythmic complexity of the short final movement was a bonus. The commissioner dismissed this Concerto leaving it to Albert Spalding (the effusive R3 announcer reluctant to name him beyond “another” violinist), Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphians to give the premiere, Feb 7, 1941; instructive despite limited sound (see below). Dalene gave an encore in which he really showed what he can do: a movement from Sonata IV, for Fritz Kreisler, from Ysaÿe’s Opus 27.

The American first half had opened with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide in a rather staid outing, with a few initially ‘squashy’ timpani strokes, and with the overall feeling that the BBCSO was still settling down. It’s George Walker’s centenary. His Variations (1971), as incident-packed and as colourful as it is, came across as too consciously ‘serial’ even for its date, perhaps to the detriment of whatever Walker’s natural style might be, however well-organised Variations is and, here, well-performed.

Tchaikovsky Four’s first movement was a little sluggish – Is dotted, Ts crossed – although it did take something of a wing halfway through, if not the grimmest of fates or the most-fervent of responses, but they both came close at times; no doubting the excellent horn contributions and decorous woodwinds. The ‘Canzone’ second movement could have done with a little more expanse – the opening oboe solo appeared harried – and the pizzicato Scherzo was fleet and exact, followed by a festive Finale, destiny returning with a vengeance, and a high-speed rebuttal.