Thursday, September 22, 2022
City Halls, Glasgow
This auspicious occasion opened fittingly with a premiere, Englishman Jonathan Woolgar’s Symphonic message in memory of L.R., an intense, rather angular ten-minute piece of emotional outpouring, activity and colour, if retaining throughout a sense of pain and loss for Linda Ross, a drama teacher who made a big impression on Woolgar and others. Woolgar’s music made a big impression as well.
Then two works by Olivier Messiaen. For O sacrum convivium! the BBC Singers were in fine a cappella form – immaculate dynamics and chording, precise ensemble – for this veiled contemplation … and it was attacca into Poèmes pour Mi (1937; ‘Mi’ being the pet-name of Messiaen’s first wife, Claire Delbos), sensual, ecstatic and radiant music dressing the composer’s words of love, a relatively early work but already with many distinctive aspects, not least the orchestration, in place. Soprano Jane Archibald (replacing Sophie Bevan) has the measure of these compelling settings – impassioned, as well as fearless in the highest registers (her debut performance of this song-cycle was with the Berlin Philharmonic and Christian Thielemann, March 2012) – and Ryan Wigglesworth drew impressive playing from the BBC Scottish.
As he did in Ravel’s complete score for Daphnis et Chloé, an expansive account of scenic beauty, vivid characterisation, and orchestral wizardry (although horns could be slippery in stratospheric passages), with the BBC Singers adding wordless lustre. Just occasionally tempo changes could seem misjudged, if justified dramatically, and perhaps the score did not hang together enough symphonically, yet there were many incidental attractions – not least the flute-playing in ‘Pantomime’ – and there was a real fizz to the final ‘General Dance’, slightly blurred at this speed if orgiastic in effect.