Photo, Mark Allan

Friday, August 11, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Music used by Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ligeti’s thirty-minute Requiem is of extreme dynamics and frequencies as it explores the mysteries of the Universe through enigmatic distance, clusters of complex chords, threatening buzzing effects, and the occasional violent suggestion of catastrophe. Edward Gardner controlled the score admirably, and the balance, in all its demands, seemed prepared to the nth degree, choral and orchestral, to allow the music its fullest and strangest (if not cinematic!) communication. (Requiem last came my way from Berlin, https://www.colinscolumn.com/berliner-philharmoniker-matthias-pintscher-conducts-bernd-alois-zimmermann-ligeti-with-amihai-grosz-playing-martinus-rhapsody-concerto-for-viola-and-orchestra-live-digital-concert-hall-webcast/.)  

The Prom’s part two opened with the Edvard Grieg Kor alone high in the Gallery, Gardner remaining on the podium, for further Ligeti, Lux aeterna, the singers phoning in their distant signals to him, if at times louder than pianissimo, less secretively lontano than it might have been, as broadcast.

From a cappella to full orchestral. Gardner already has a Proms Zarathustra credit (during the 2016 season with the National Youth Orchestra). Following the superlatives chucked at the Strauss by R3 presenter Georgia Mann (see related readers’ comments here, https://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-proms-2023-prom-30-sinfonia-of-london-john-wilson-conducts-lili-boulanger-william-walton-with-alim-beisembayev-playing-rachmaninovs-second-piano-concerto-live-on-bbc-radio-3/), who was also at-odds with her colleagues in pronouncing LPO leader Pieter Schoeman’s surname (invariably ‘skooman’), Gardner conducted a rather subdued, sometimes chaste, if suitably philosophical account of this Nietzsche-inspired symphonic poem, ‘symphonic’ being the hallmark of Gardner’s approach, the LPO finely honed in response, although greater tumult was needed for the ‘Midnight Bell’ episode, the instrument itself (borrowed from the Liverpool Phil), while audible enough, lacked cut-through clangour. Come the wasteland of the closing bars, the highs and lows of the scoring returned us to Ligeti…

Jennifer France soprano

Clare Presland mezzo-soprano

Edvard Grieg Kor Håkon Matti Skrede chorus-master

London Philharmonic Choir Neville Creed chorus-master

Royal Northern College of Music Chamber Choir Stuart Overington chorus-master

London Philharmonic Orchestra Pieter Schoeman leader

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001p7xp