Photo, Chris Christodoulou
Monday, August 15, 2022
Royal Albert Hall, London
June 13, 1954, the first performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto, given by Philip Catelinet with the LSO and Barbirolli, commercially recorded the following day. It’s in three concise movements and is characteristic of the composer, whether spiky rhythms or the lovely melody of the central ‘Romanza’. Constantin Hartwig was superb regarding every demand, so lyrical in the middle movement, impressively poised in the cadenzas, and he could not have wished for a better collaboration than that fashioned by Sakari Oramo. Hartwig offered a syncopated encore, an arrangement of Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’.
Opening the Prom was the UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s twenty-five-minute Time Flies (BBC co-commission, scored for large orchestra including Turnage’s trademark soprano saxophone), first heard in Hamburg in September last year conducted by Alan Gilbert. The German city is the subject of the second movement, preceded by London and rounded by Tokyo. (More info here: http://www.colinscolumn.com/tonight-at-bbc-proms-2022-the-uk-premiere-of-mark-anthony-turnages-time-flies-bbcso-sakari-oramo-also-vaughan-williams-and-elgar/.) Time Flies is an engaging score, rather folksy and lightly detailed first of all, Turnage at his most English (one motif, akin to a nursery rhyme, had me thinking of Eric Coates), then more-strident (woodwinds and brass, and rather John Adams-like) for Hamburg, if evocative, maybe with a social-decay edge, strings adding intensity, with flowering optimism latterly coming through; and Tokyo is full of complex dance rhythms, no problem for the BBCSO and Oramo; indeed, played with confident swagger.
It’s ten years since Oramo recorded Elgar’s First Symphony in Stockholm, https://www.classicalsource.com/cd/sakari-oramo-conducts-elgars-first-symphony-and-cockaigne-overture-royal-stockholm-philharmonic-orchestra-bis/, and there was a previous BBCSO concert of it. This Proms performance was magnificent, fabulously played, lived-in yet crackling with the passion of a first-love discovery. The ebb and flow of the opening movement, the public and the private aspects, were beautifully judged as integral to whole, whether powerfully energetic or confiding, embracing multifaceted emotions. The Scherzo was brought off with militaristic elan as well as generously expressive broadenings – Oramo going with his heart – a reverie as the wonderful slow movement is approached, here distilled raptly, music beyond words, ppp at least by the close. With a Finale that strutted, suggested panoramic views, and ended gloriously, this was altogether special.
I agree Coli – a superb performance conduced from memory. The first movement was moved briskly forward (not driven) a la Elgar and the BBCSO Orchestra was on superb form. Oramo clearly loves the piece but this love is objective not sentimental. As a consequence the slow. movement was heartfelt, those last bars exquisitely judged. and finale hard won but inevitable. I have lost counts the number of times I have heard this great symphony but this was one of those I will not forget.
What a pleasure it was to hear the VW concerto, a joy to experience and that slow movement is again ‘heartfelt’ – very English but timeless. For me the Turnage, despite its brilliance, over stayed its welcome – it was just too long but fun to hear! Oramo and this orchestra are clearly one of the great pairings not that really needs mentioning!
Agree. I know the Elgar inside out and back to front and I think last night was the finest I’ve ever heard it done. I’ve also never in 40 years of going to the Proms heard sustained cheering like it!!! Wonderful
The Elgar was a truly great interpretation of a wonderful piece of music just so evocative of its time written by a man almost forgotten through the 40s/50s and 60s but coming back into his own with compositions worthy of our listening time. The VW most most enjoyable and Turnage very listenable, in all a great Prom.
I was sorry to miss this concert as I had already booked to go to Edinburgh for LES SIECLES (no regrets there: best SACRE ever!) Oramo’s Elgar 1 at the Barbican was so special that in 2019 we went to Stockholm to hear him do it twice (the locals also loved his encore of a truncated P & C 1). Two other special Elgar Ones recently were Andrew Manze standing in for Sir Mark in Manchester and Ed Gardner in Basingstoke; so next January’s 1 & 2 should be RFH highlights…also booked to hear it with Trevino BSO and Yamada CBSO this season. The first seems to have gone back to being more popular than the second which was talked up in the 70s onwards as superior.
The Sacre you mention was on R3 last night, a bit disappointing given your ‘best ever’ recommendation and the breathless enthusiasm of the radio announcer that turned out to be misplaced; did she go on and on!!!