Dora Pejačević (1885-1923)
Friday, October 6, 2023
Barbican Hall, London
During this year’s Proms season Sakari Oramo conducted outstanding performances of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, https://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-proms-2023-prom-35-bbc-symphony-orchestra-sakari-oramo-conducts-mahler-seven-and-leila-josefowicz-plays-bergs-violin-concerto-live-on-bbc-radio-3/, followed by the Third, https://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-proms-2023-prom-45-bbc-symphony-orchestra-sakari-oramo-conducts-mahlers-third-symphony-live-on-bbc-radio-3/. He now has a hat-trick of memorable Mahler readings in just a couple of months with this Fifth Symphony that opened with a commanding trumpet solo from Philip Cobb cueing a first movement funeral march both desolate (bitter tears) and emotionally explosive, stormily reciprocated in the next movement contrasted with recesses of remembrance; complex feelings made the more so by Oramo’s unvarnished approach and the BBCSO’s unshakeable playing. Similarly a measured approach to the Scherzo gave it greater consequence than can be the case, with pizzicatos more macabre and flare-ups made intrinsic to the whole, plus ripe horn contributions from Nicholas Korth. The strings-and-harp Adagietto was rapturous, tender and flexible, beautifully played, and it entered into a Finale of buoyancy, sleights of hand, a crowning chorale (introduced as a marker in the second movement) and a joyous light-emitting coda.
The season started with Ligeti’s early Concert Românesc, a folk-music-inspired score of suggestion, poetic expression, energetic flings, twilight exchanges by horns across valleys, and a final section of frenetic hullabaloo, a bring-a-bottle party – all performed here with sensitivity and scintillation. Following which Oramo continued to champion the music of Dora Pejačević as he did most recently at the Proms, https://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-proms-2023-prom-40-bbc-symphony-orchestra-sakari-oramo-conducts-dora-pejacevics-symphony-in-f-sharp-minor-with-martin-helmchen-playing-brahmss-second-piano-concerto-live-on-bbc-radio-3/, on this occasion with her Phantasie concertante (1919; UK premiere) featuring Alexandra Dariescu as the pianist required to be brilliant. No sooner had it started than I was thinking of Charles Williams’s The Dream of Olwen (written a couple of decades later), although the Pejačević is more substantial, rhapsodic and edgier, with a demanding cadenza that came across as cumulative as part of an engaging piece.