Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

A bizarre start, an excerpt (arranged by Elgar Howarth) from Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre, music that is extreme and surreal, unpredictable, humorous, a showcase for the exceptional soprano Anna-Lena Elbert who spun such likeable nonsense with supreme confidence and meaningful interactions with the BFO.

The endgame Bartók (its final bars completed by Tibor Serly) was given with clarity and unaffected identification, it breathed and was expressed in the most natural way by András Schiff and his colleagues in music distilled to essentials, also heartfelt and sad, although the Finale could have done with a little more zest (and bass drum). The first of Bartók’s Three Rondos on Slovak Folk Tunes acted as an enjoyable encore, Schiff continuing to be in total rapport with this composer’s music.

Fischer’s conducting of the ‘Eroica’ was spacious and dignified, of incident and gravitas, very much a singular approach (without exposition repeat), sporting a wide dynamic range, if not always suggesting the ‘Eroica’ as a boundary-breaking Symphony. Yet it radiated humanity, especially in a particularly broad and eloquent ‘Funeral March’, but who is insensitive and selfish enough to clap after such music when performed like this? Overall, an ‘Eroica’ given time to inveigle the listener, with gratitude, not least through the avoidance of ‘period’ tempos and timbres, rather with numerous judicious playing touches and interpretative observations, although – caveat – the ultimate coda might have broken free to a greater degree, the horns rather subdued. (R3 presenter Petroc Trelawny then described the four movements we had just heard – for ourselves!!!) A sung extra followed, a little something by Fanny Mendelssohn (Felix’s sister); rather lovely.