Ted Gordon, photo

Bernard Rands (UK/USA, born in Sheffield) turns ninety on March 2. Last night the BBCSO and Hannu Lintu started their Barbican Hall concert with the UK premiere of Rands’s twenty-five-minute Symphonic Fantasy (BBC/Boston Symphony co-commission), a score owing to Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony (which was originally entitled Symphonic Fantasy). Although he studied with such as Berio, Boulez, Dallapiccola and Maderna, this latest Rands composition doesn’t recall any of them; Sibelius, yes, if only up to a point, and informed by a certain Englishness (even though Rands has cosmopolitan influences and modernist leanings – at Darmstadt and in Italy – having lived in the States since the 1970s and married to fellow-composer Augusta Read Thomas) as well as solid musical values for a piece that begins in the depths, ominously, radiates atmosphere, and holds the attention as the slow-burn start develops greater animation, intensity and energy; music that doesn’t rely on sensationalism but experienced craft. More fantasy than symphonic, seemingly so on a first and indeed a second acquaintance, whether the piece reaches wherever it is going I am not yet certain, although I am keen to find out and therefore looking forward to at least a third voyage. Initial impressions suggest the quiet ending is a safe harbour. It’s music to explore.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001w1kc (rest of concert: Prokofiev, Stravinsky, John Adams)

https://www.schott-music.com/en/symphonic-fantasy-no404352.html

http://www.bernardrands.com/