Friday, November 3, 2023

Teatro Monumental, Calle de Atocha, 65 Madrid, 28012 Spain

Hunt for the broadcast! I did eventually find it, but in the process missed Cindy McTee’s Circuits, although it’s now quite a familiar – and welcome – piece (recorded on Naxos) and I was only able to come into the Chopin halfway through the first movement. Joaquín Achúcarro, who turned ninety-one two days ago, was distilling a time-taken and careful account, somewhat awkward technically, with wrong and missed notes, and a lack of shape and sparkle, yet he played with the authority of experience, nothing to prove, and if the Finale was approximate then the slow movement was sensitive and eloquent, and throughout (my throughout) it was self-evident what he was trying to do, which was a sincere and musical traversal of the solo part, tactfully supported by Leonard Slatkin and the Spanish Radio Television Orchestra, with Achúcarro going on to conjure a magical reading of a Nocturne by Scriabin.

Sibelius’s First Symphony opens with a clarinet solo, here suggesting a story to be told – and not only in the ‘Quasi una fantasia’ final movement – for Slatkin presided over a graphic yet coherent performance, flexible if logical, impassioned, painterly and characterful, sometimes leviathan-like, at others with subtle felicities, played with relish. For all its articulacy, if the Scherzo was a little staid, although the Trio melted expressively, then the Finale was expansive and dramatic, baleful in the ultimate measures, thunderous timpani, then suddenly next to nothing save for the barest of pizzicatos … and a gent in the audience uttering “bravo”.

Many Happy Returns to pianist Joaquín Achúcarro, 91 today. Concerto Macabre (Hangover Square).