Photo, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
The concert opened with the century-plus belated London premiere of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘lost and found’ Solemn Prelude (Opus 40; 1899; written for the Three Choirs Festival), lacking distinction if in the Parry/Stanford mould (the latter composer being Coleridge-Taylor’s teacher), recognisably English if short of anything memorable. Fine performance though.
Masterpieces followed. Michael Tippett’s mid-1950s’ Piano Concerto, inspired by and structurally-mirroring Beethoven’s Fourth such work. Steven Osborne is one of Tippett’s greatest champions – he has recorded all the piano music for Hyperion – and here he relished the lyrical/enchanted first movement without lingering; indeed, there was a moving-forward that was exhilarating without compromising ensemble, the LPO and Edward Gardner spot-on in togetherness and expressiveness despite the tricky and exposed writing, Osborne animated and glittering, cumulative in the cadenza, a celesta in attendance. There was a freshness to this account that found the music’s radiance, continued in the tense and elaborate slow movement that yields to ecstasy and contemplation (cf the Beethoven), and rounded by the joyous and jazzy Finale, dancing unstoppably to the finishing post, Catherine Edwards’s neighbourly celesta once again a prominent voice. Osborne gave a wonderful, deep-harmony, encore: an improvisation on something by Keith Jarrett.
Edward Gardner has already put his recorded stamp on Elgar’s First Symphony, for Chandos with the BBCSO. Conducting the LPO he led a dynamic and impassioned rendition that ebbed and flowed through the musical and emotional complexities, whether powerfully public or privately pianissimo, the substantial first movement hanging together through its myriad transformations, pertinent details revealed. Following which, a fiery Scherzo that was exquisitely wound-down into the intimacies and eloquences of the exceptional Adagio, spacious and soulful, and then a clan-gathering Finale – judiciously attacca – that strode to triumph and found it without egotistical pomp.
I was lucky to be there…just got back. Sad that they cannot fill the hall: balcony totally empty. The Elgar was as magnificent as his performance around 2018 with the Philharmonia in Basingstoke (and equal to my surprise Elgar 1 of last year in Portsmouth: BSO……..and Robert Trevino!)
Looking forward to EG’s Elgar 2 on Saturday though it seems Mark Simpson has not finished his piano concerto in time. Was hoping to hear Karabitts in Elgar 2 next Friday (3rd) but the rail strikes have banjaxed that.
Agree the Tippett is a masterpiece (as does Dave Hurwitz who has a youtube best version comparison). Don’t think I have heard it live since 1975 in Manchester: Paul Crossley Andrew Davis Halle; with Don Juan & Schumann 2. Mr Osborne was magnificent and the encore very touching.
Hope your quick review alerts your readers to get on BBC Sounds.
Happy New Year Colin and continued thanks to one of the few truly civilised websites out there.
I too was there as reviewer used to better seats as given last night.
Hence my reaction to my favourite Btitish piano concerto was to lament not hearing the piano as you did Col on R3. As the most experienced soloist in this work I am always surprised he needs the score. He lacks spontaneity for this music. The only soloist who plays without score is Martino Tirimo who secured Tippett’s approval sufficient to record the work under Tippett’s baton. The freedom of expression he secures is far more than Crossley achieves or anyone else I know.
I found the Elgar light weight also lamenting the lack of real passion heard in my favourite interpreter Glorious John. Yes I agree the scherzo had more zip but the first movement was just too slow and lacking in momentum which is needed to maintain this long structure.
Gardner does nor sound a natural Elgarian but might mature into one. I hope so because his heart is in the right place but it fails to show here.
The Coleridge-Taylor was only played to tick the now necessary box.
Enough of this wokery .if
I really do think he IS a natural Elgarian; from my seat the passion was there too. A clincher of his Elgarian credentials (no doubt partly from his mentor, Sir Mark) was his APOSTLES at the Edinburgh Festival. True Elgarians: Boult, Elder, Oramo know this is a supreme masterpiece (as did Rozhdestvensky).
His pacing of the last movement of Elgar 2 in the Saturday concert confirmed my sense he is truly a natural Elgarian; unlike the unnatural clanging of Olafson in the Schumann concerto (he was more restrained at Edinburgh Festival, perhaps mellowed by the acoustic?). His cds are interesting but I was not the only one to leave his recital at half time at last summer’s Oxford piano festival: he bashed the piano like a sulky child.
To avoid confusion I refer incorrectly to Paul Crossley who also plays this score rather than last night’s soloist Steven Osborne. Both are deficient compared to Tirimo.