Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: From bleak thrills in the arctic to Baltic illuminations

Well. About time. Here's another review, from the London Telegraph of Paavo's London concert!
Ivan Hewett reviews the Philharmonia conducted by Paavo Järvi at Queen Elizabeth Hall

The temporary closure of the Festival Hall may be a financial headache for its two resident orchestras, but there is a silver lining; it's easier to take artistic risks when there are only 900 seats of the QEH to fill. To their great credit, both orchestras are seizing this opportunity.

Last week, the LPO gave us three works by young Brits in one evening; not to be outdone, the Philharmonia last Sunday played the British première of a Double Concerto by the much-touted Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, a piece they co-commissioned with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

It was followed by Rachmaninov's romantic Second Symphony and prefaced by Sibelius's last and bleakest tone-poem, Tapiola.

This was a risky move, as Sibelius's stupendous evocation of icy northern forests and howling winds tends to annihilate anything that comes after it (and what a bleakly thrilling performance it was, under the rock-steady hand of Paavo Järvi).

It was like suddenly moving into zero gravity to hear the beginning of Tüür's piece; a gentle soughing of air blown through the brass, a sudden orchestral shimmer, an upward flourish from the solo clarinettist, answered by a descending one from the violin.

As a way of signalling that the two soloists were conceived as opposites, that gesture was certainly a touch facile; and there was another "ho-hum" moment later when a tangled texture crystallised out into still octaves - how many modern pieces have given us that old chestnut!

But there were many genuinely subtle and luminous ideas on the way, which made me feel warmer towards this than any other piece of Tüür's I've heard.

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