Thursday, February 09, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Philharmonia/Järvi

Aha! And here's another review, this time by Geoff Brown of The Times of London (2/9/06):
**** out of *****

Suddenly there they were, Rachmaninov’s gorgeous melodies unravelling before our ears like a large, purple ball of wool. His Second Symphony, of course, is built to have that effect, but the programming of the Philharmonia’s concert with Paavo Järvi brought home the work’s lyric effusions.

Consider what came before. First, Sibelius’s tone poem Tapiola, in which the orchestra brought home its sombre, keening power. Wheeling over to Estonia, we then hit the always interesting Erkki-Sven Tüür and the night’s big novelty, Noesis, an arresting new concerto for violin and clarinet, jointly commissioned by the Philharmonia and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. No soaring melodies here either, though plenty, as usual, to digest and fascinate.

Tüür’s programme note told us that, after exertions on a symphonic whopper featuring electric guitar and big-band jazz, he had planned something "more transparent and lucid". With the transparency aspect, frankly, he failed. When the very sounds of their instruments, the orchestral textures and the basic material keep coagulating like molten lava, even brilliant artists like Michael Collins and Isabelle van Keulen cannot dance with fairy feet. But lucid? Structurally that was certainly so. Collins’s clarinet, generally hard in tone, leapt and bubbled up an ascending scale; Van Keulen’s violin (more obscured in the sound mix) pirouetted downwards through a scale of her own; then everyone mixed and matched. The three sections of the 20-minute piece were equally well defined: one to lay out the composer’s cards, one to muse lyrically, another to celebrate jazzily before a final withering, and a lone gong.

Finally, the purple ball of wool. This was in general a passionate Rachmaninov performance, well propelled by Järvi’s circling arms. Now I’m ready to knit.

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