Missy Mazzoli

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

The concert opened with a selection from Swan Lake, beginning with the Act I ‘Waltz’, trumpets to the fore and a few mannerisms aside (pauses, elongations), it was also attractively souffle-light in places. What followed was similar: some interpretative spanners-in-the works (threatening ensemble), speeded-up codas, passionate declarations, pirouetting swans, a deliberately-paced ‘Spanish Dance’ that invariably quickened, then the ‘Neapolitan Dance’, also from Act III, that started in the slowest of motions (incongruous) and went to the other extreme by its conclusion (Jason Evans brilliant on cornet), and finally the ballet’s conclusion that made for a pumped-up peroration. But, Rozhdestvensky in Moscow has been casting long shadows for decades: http://www.colinscolumn.com/one-of-the-great-recordings-of-tchaikovskys-score-for-swan-lake-gennadi-rozhdestvenskys-complete-1969-version-for-melodiya-with-the-moscow-radio-symphony-orchestra/.

Missy Mazzoli’s Violin Concerto (‘Procession’), this BBC co-commission given its European premiere, passed me by, totally, despite Jennifer Koh’s dedicated performance and what sounded a well-prepared Philharmonia. Accessible and intense, if to my mind lacking style, character, and a sense of direction over five movements and twenty or so minutes, this is music that is personal to Mazzoli if unfortunately meaningless to me; perhaps some will find it spiritual. Still, Koh’s Bach encore (the Andante from the A-minor Sonata, BWV1003) was worth waiting for.

Following the interval, further ballet music, from Prokofiev’s score for Romeo and Juliet, Santtu-Matias Rouvali plundering movements from the composer’s three Suites (roughly fifty minutes’ worth, double the Tchaikovsky ration), the Philharmonia required at times to play with Soviet-like edge, although the best moments came in the quiet expressive numbers that could be hypnotic and found principal players at the top of their game; elsewhere exaggeration and bombast crept in, some misplaced clapping too, although the most-dramatic sections could be thrilling, and when Rouvali wasn’t autographing particular bars, there was a clockwork precision to the playing that was impressive. Impossible to forget Celibidache though…


Birthday gift to myself, and all: one of the great LSO/Celibidache concerts; April 11, 1978; Royal Festival Hall, London; Verdi, Hindemith, Prokofiev.

RELEASED TODAY, September 4: Philharmonia Orchestra – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts selections from Swan Lake [Signum]