Friday, March 4, 2022

Barbican Hall, London

Forty years and one day ago the Barbican Centre presented its first concert (LSO/Abbado, with Ashkenazy and Yo-Yo Ma). For the present celebration Judith Weir’s Concrete (“A motet about London”, 2007) opened the evening – with texts citing the city’s history, churches, fire/ruins, Shakespeare’s London, the Blitz/resurgam, the Thames – an incident-packed populous-chorus and colourful-orchestra (without violas) piece that sustains well its twenty-three minutes with drama and imagery, grand gestures offset by engaging ditties, urged on by the clearly enunciated news-reporting of narrator Jamie Parker. (The composer was present.)

Elgar’s Cello Concerto (1919) needs no introduction – and a period of rest, so often does it appear. However, Senja Rummukainen came to the score unencumbered to give an impassioned yet thoughtful and intimate account, accompanied insightfully, tactfully and personably. Rummukainen’s sensitivity and, when required, dexterity were impressive – slow tempos unindulged, fast ones unshowy and articulate – with Sakari Oramo (he’s recorded Elgar’s two Symphonies in Stockholm for BIS) ensuring that there is more to this music than it being an “elegy for an era”.

Following Oramo’s wonderful recent Ravel release, also from Stockholm,, it was no surprise that the complete oeuvre for Daphnis et Chloé (complementing the Elgar by being a pre-WWI piece, first-performed in 1912, Monteux conducting) should have been given such a luminous, voluptuous and atmospheric outing, at once choreographic and symphonic; time-taken, too, lasting just short of one hour, clarity and expression to the fore, the music’s delicacy and power respectively traced and unleashed. The BBC Symphony Chorus’s wordless contribution was intonationally exact; the birdsong and sunrise of ‘Daybreak’ magical and panoramic (ecstatic, too, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the reunited named pair running to each other and kissing); there was lovely flute-playing in ‘Pantomime’ from Michael Cox; and the concluding ‘General Dance’ enjoyed delirious momentum from a partying Chorus and Orchestra. Maybe Oramo is recording Daphnis for BIS.

From Robert von Bahr of BIS Records…