Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

It was just a few weeks ago that Radio 3 broadcast Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, a regular in the station’s schedule, and just about everywhere else. (I’m not sure the work, or any piece, is done many favours by endless repetition.) On that occasion the soloist was Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Ludovic Morlot conducted, and here she was again. Trying to ignore R3 presenter Tom Service’s review of the performance before it started, based on the rehearsal, this account disappointed, the soloist trying too hard with tone, disembodied in the first movement, sobbing effects, too, out of place, with the ‘Passacaglia’ third movement emotionally earthbound (unlike, say, the soaring and tear-jerking Mullova on her recording with Previn), and if the second and final movements had a certain charge (the former clapped: “they think it’s all over”) it was the lengthy cadenza into the latter that perhaps was the highlight. As broadcast, the Aurora Orchestra sounded short on personnel and was balanced distantly, not making much impression. With spoken dignity, ‘PatKop’ avoided playing an encore.

The concert’s entrée was Iannis Xenakis’s O-Mega (1997), for a percussionist (Henry Baldwin, from the LPO; pictured) and thirteen instruments: static and abrasive with Baldwin supplying rhythmic propulsion; worth a listen for its few minutes, but Jonchaies, from a couple of evenings ago, isn’t easily dislodged, http://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-proms-2022-prom-20-martyn-brabbins-conducts-birtwistle-tom-borrow-plays-ravels-g-major-piano-concerto-live-bbc/.

In the second half, Service and Nicholas Collon talked their way through Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, with Aurora-played excerpts, audience participation, and literally drumming the opening four-note motif into our consciousness. Collon was engagingly humorous and while the receptive listener only needs a performance to pick up on most aspects, I for one am enlightened about the kinship between the opening of Mozart 40 and – change the tempo and lower the pitch – the opening of Beethoven’s Scherzo. As for Aurora’s rendition – from memory, quite a feat – it was fast and flowing, without vibrato (which is only one way of presenting this music), vividly detailed, and played excellently with fiery conviction.