Violin Concerto op 15, 1939. Jansen's 2009 recording (also with Paavo Järvi) is classic, but this Proms performance was even more impassioned.
Jansen played the long opening lines serenely, intensifying the contrast between beauty and the tense agitato. Fiercely
angular bowing. Wild, turbulent strings begin the second movement,
suggesting flight and action .The long diminuendo could suggest many
things, Jansen's delicacy makes it feel vulnerable, particularly fragile
against the turbulence in the orchestra. The violin emerges, in an
intriguing solo cadenza: Jansen beats pizzicato. Hollow, wooden
percussiveness, basic sounds yet in this context, frighteningly eerie.
Then the violin soars, bringing the whole orchestra behind it in a
rising anthem. Yet, if there is a protagonist in the piece, he or she is
very much alone. In the quiet passages, Jansen is firm and resolute.
Turbulent, circular figures in the orchestra threaten to overwhelm but
Jansen's response is fast paced and agile. The Orchestre de Paris has a
richer sound than the LSO on the recording, and for Järvi they create
the brooding final movement with depth, the dark chords like heartbeats
or a march towards death. The violin twists, creating strange
ambiguities. Jansen's playing is assured but she gets to the emotionally
disturbing soul of the piece. Britten wrote the piece at a time of
turmoil, when his despair over Europe was so acute he needed to get way.
Listening to the Violin Concerto, perhaps we can already hear Britten confronting the fundamental darkness of the human spirit, from which there is no escape.
Pairing Britten's Violin Concerto with Arvo Pärt's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten,
was astute. When Edward Gardner and the BBCSO played this Pärt piece in
2010, its tolling bell and wash of strings sounded like a reprise of
Britten's Sea Interludes. Perhaps Pärt was thinking of Peter Grimes,
but hearing the piece in the broader context of Britten's life and
death made the work seem altogther more substantial, and more moving.
The Orchestre de Paris has a refinement that few British orchestras -
even the best - don't often achieve. In this performance, they gave
Pärt's short piece the power of elegy.
After Britten, we needed Something Completely Different. so Järvi blew the gloom away with a vigorous Berlioz Le Corsaire.
Vivid, energetic playing with exactly the right touch of bravado. The
Orchestre de Paris are far too stylish to go for the vulgarity that
Berlioz sometimes needs. but here they captured the wild spirit of open
skies and seas. We could imagine pirates and dancers throwing caution to
Thierry Eisach played the Royal Albert Hall organ in
Saint-Saëns.Symphony no 3. This might have been written for a cathedral
and a very academic, austere organist but it's an interior "open
horizon" of the imagination. Imagine Saint-Saëns as a swashbuckling
pirate in his dreams, and you'll get an idea what Eisach, Järvi and the
Orchestre de Paris achieved in this thrilling Prom, the first truly
satisfying Prom this week.