Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Monday, September 5, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

It was either this Prom or another concert from Berlin, part of its current Musikfest. I chose the latter, However, the interval of the Santa Cecilia concert came at just the right time to hear Betsy Jolas’s new bTunes for Nicolas, itself just the right length for an interval, seventeen minutes. I also listened a second time.

Btunes is an inventive, witty and likeably unpredictable piece by Jolas, who turned ninety-six on August 5. It’s a snapshot of new and old Jolas threaded together seamlessly and gratifyingly, and opens with a bit of theatre, here involving leader Stephen Bryant (better viewed than listened to, I imagine), with what follows being a treat for the ears, many incidents of enchanting invention and bejewelled sound, played with typical brilliance and consideration by Nicolas Hodges, matched by the BBCSO and Karina Canellakis. The composer was in the Hall, a photograph taken there suggesting she is belying her years.

Then for me it was back to Berlin for more piano-and-orchestra, Busoni’s Concerto… the Mahler that Canellakis was concurrently conducting can wait awhile, for I’d heard Symphony One just twenty-four hours earlier, … so some space is now needed between me and it…

Many Happy Returns to composer Betsy Jolas, 96 today.