Daniel Kidane (born 1986)

Friday, September 2, 2022

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

These works have been heard at home and abroad quite regularly recently courtesy of the LSO and Simon Rattle.

The Berlin appearance (where Sir Simon is of course a very familiar presence) began with Berlioz’s Corsaire Overture. Following the initial swirl, Rattle really milked the slow music for all it is worth, and more – a bit static – then with plenty of impetuosity given to the faster stuff, a surge played with the LSO flag at full mast (Berlin, we play like this in London, too), yet something intangible was missing beneath the flair: je ne sais quoi. Staying gallic, the first half ended with Ravel’s La valse, shadowy and slinky to open, then came some mixed-up speeds, quick enough to appear rushed, held-back enough to sound cosmetic, and lacking ultimate tumult in the final pages, despite the accelerating mania. In between, Daniel Kidane’s Sun Poem (LSO co-commission; German premiere): jagged trumpet and woodwind lines, a clockwork, Stravinsky-like, attention to rhythm (insects coming to life, perhaps) variedly time-signatured and coloured, slowing if remaining mechanical around the ten-minute mark and then allowing sad lyricism in, if oh so briefly, for the eleventh.

1924: Sibelius completes his Seventh Symphony and Bartók his score for the ‘ballet-pantomime’ The Miraculous Mandarin – concentrated symphonism from the Finn, sleaze and violence from the Hungarian: both masterpieces.

Rattle’s Sibelian credentials are time-honoured. He has the length and line of this supreme Symphony, Sibelius’s farewell to the form, unfolding it majestically, but not necessarily its cragginess. Yet it was suitably seamless, wonderfully detailed without compromising the journey to establish C-major, and the playing had a lived-in freshness that was impressive. Rattle seems to reside in this music in a very personal way: notes on the page during rehearsal, an unstated range of characters and situations inhabiting his imagination. Like the Symphony itself, this was a singularly impressive – and inevitable – performance. The Bartók (in Suite form, roughly the first two-thirds of the whole) was also dismissive of previously formed perceptions; nothing watered-down or soft-grained here, rather a rampant and eerie traversal, strangeness and intoxication when needed (Chris Richards did the bewitching clarinet solos), and a final chase that was thrilling, the LSO spectacular.

For an encore, Fauré’s Pavane – cool, Gareth Davies the sylvan flautist – and as a postscript, a word for the timpanist, a face new to me; he was excellent, conjuring sound from within the instruments rather than banging away on the surface of them.