Friday, May 26, 2023

Barbican Hall, London

Making his BBCSO debut, Dima Slobodeniouk opened with Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony (No.35; K385; composed for the family of that name), unfailingly well-judged in tempo – the first movement measured yet vigorous in its journey; then a shapely serenade (first repeat taken); a majestic Minuet (twice-through again in the da capo) with a suave Trio; and a fiery Finale – and detail, timpani quite prominent, although woodwinds could have been more-so at certain points. Stravinsky wrote Symphony of Psalms (1930) for Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra yet were pipped to the premiere post by Ansermet (two Decca recordings) in Brussels, if only by a few days. Slobodeniouk led a ritualistic account based on tight rhythms and intense solemn expression both orchestrally (no violins or violas in the scoring if two pianos and, stalking the surface, a large contingent of woodwind and brass) and chorally, emphasising the work’s austerity, the BBC Symphony Chorus avoiding any pretentiousness of vanity in its unvarnished timbre. Prokofiev’s final Symphony, No.7 (C-sharp minor, Opus 131) is a nostalgic piece with a light touch, which Slobodeniouk was innate to in the first two movements, yet the surface innocence hides a depth of feeling that is very experienced, the third movement especially bittersweet, very affecting here, with the seemingly frivolous Finale giving way to chimes suggesting time running out (Prokofiev would die the following year, 1953), Slobodeniouk absolutely right to ignore the knockabout ending that the composer tacked on, possibly coerced, in favour of the quiet tinkling that simply stops like a wound-down clock.