Friday, February 18, 2022

Barbican Hall, London

It’s fifty years since Andrew Davis first conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and including eleven years as Chief Conductor and some Last Nights of the Proms. This celebratory if storm-cancelled concert was, for the record:

Berg, orch. Andrew Davis: Piano Sonata, Opus 1

Berg: Violin Concerto (James Ehnes)

Rachmaninov: Vocalise; Symphonic Dances

I really wanted to hear Davis’s scoring of the Berg; hopefully it will be programmed again and soon (Proms?).

Meanwhile, as a replacement, a visit to the BBC archives; plenty of material of Sir Andrew conducting the BBCSO, beginning with Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Momentum, an engaging piece – energy and reflection; neon colours and big-band sounds.

Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto was broadcast, with Leonidas Kavakos as soloist (Royal Festival Hall, 2000), an intense, even haunted account of a work “in memory of an angel” (Manon Gropius), Kavakos, technique assured and inside the deep emotions of the music, Davis in charge of orchestral delicacies and eruptions, with the Bach-tandemed final minutes being especially poignant (wisely, applause had been removed).

The interval brought recent words from Sir Andrew, and with them came the welcome news that he’s recording a Berg disc for Chandos, including that so-far-elusive Sonata orchestration: rush-release please Ralph (Couzens).

Back to the music for a swashbuckling and expressive account of Elgar’s Froissart (Proms, 1998). Then, another survivor, Rachmaninov’s composer-orchestrated Vocalise (originally a vocal number), beautifully done – flowing, unindulged – given in Shanghai 2019. Finally Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony in the studio recording now on Warner Classics,, and I recently came across this wonderful piece from Davis in Frankfurt, (I wonder though if anyone on Radio 3 or at the SO considered the excellent VW Ninth that Davis conducted at the Proms in 1998,

It was Sir Andrew’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, Sorry about the weather, Sir, but come back soon. [link to replacement programme for the cancelled concert]

BBC Radio 3 celebrates Ralph Vaughan Williams at 150 with Vaughan Williams Today (02/03-29/05 & Autumn).

Friends, if Storm Eunice calls today, please stay safe. Video of Colin Davis conducting the ‘Storm Interlude’ from Britten’s Peter Grimes; Royal Opera; 1981.