Recorded December 2020 in the Royal Festival Hall, London [without an audience]

Broadcast Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 7.30 p.m.

This splendidly unhackneyed programme made variety out of chamber-scoring repertoire.

In J. S. Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto – featuring violin, flute and harpsichord – Vladimir Jurowski pressed ahead without rushing, shapely phrasing, not least from the three happily-intertwining soloists (lovely flute timbre), being the order of the day, Catherine Edwards cutting her harpsichord loose from its continuo role for a spectacular cadenza to crown the first movement. Following the intimate, here spaciously-divined, slow movement (for just the trio of highlighted instruments), the Finale found joy in moderation of tempo to exploit expressiveness.

In his opera Hamlet (which Jurowski conducted at Glyndebourne) Brett Dean includes a role for an accordion (for the play-within-a-play scene) that has now been expanded into a concerto in all but name, The Players (2019). An eerie and suspenseful opening gives way to agitation, setting up a volatility that sustains the continuous twenty-minute whole, enhanced by ear-catching use of what Dean terms a “mid-sized orchestra”. With Bartosz Glowacki required to exploit fully every aspect of his instrument’s range there was no doubt, with or without Shakespeare and visual action, that a drama is being enacted, an aural page-turner.

Finally (following the unnecessary interval intrusion of Ravel’s La valse, two-piano version, Argerich & Freire, albeit silence for me) Stravinsky’s “ballet-with-song”, Pulcinella, in its complete form (1920, for Diaghilev, choreography by Massine, Ansermet conducting). Scored specifically for thirty-three players (a mix of wind and strings, percussion had been kept busy in the Dean) the LPO responded crisply and buoyantly, poetically and humorously, and with agility and affection to Stravinsky’s Italian Baroque-infused confection of character pieces (twenty-one numbers in all) and Jurowski’s judicious speeds, shaping and detailing. Some fine singing, too.

Whoever engineered the sound deserves credit – he or she recognising that the RFH does tangibility and clarity very well and is far less viable when distance and artificial reverb are forced upon it.

Bach Pieter Schoeman (violin), Juliette Bausor (flute) & Catherine Edwards (harpsichord)

Stravinsky Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano), Sam Furness (tenor) & Matthew Rose (bass)