Tuesday 16 July 2013

Proms 2013. A David Matthews premiere, Rachmaninov from Nobuyuki Tsujii and Nielsen’s Inextinguishable with Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic

Tonight’s Prom (16th July 2013) with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra www.bbc.co.uk/orchestras/philharmonic  conducted by their Chief Conductor, Juanjo Mena http://juanjomena.com/en featured the world premiere of David Matthews's A Vision of the Sea, www.david-matthews.co.uk a BBC commission inspired by Shelley's poetry, the pull of the tide on the Kentish coast at Deal and an evocation of the sound of sunrise, as recorded by scientists from Sheffield University.

There was a luminous opening with the sound of sea birds and a feeling of expectancy with Matthew’s interesting and evocative chords in the orchestra with piano and percussion adding colour. Slowly the orchestra rose in the strings, pointed up by brass before a passage for solo violin and woodwind. The orchestra continued to rise to a brief climax before playfully dancing strings and woodwind entered. A beautifully quiet passage was shared between flute, oboe and brass, giving way to a flowing string passage.

A rising motif signalled a stormier section with basses heaving around before the music rose up in the orchestra, with timpani and brass heralding a dynamic section. Swirling strings entered, rising in waves of sound to a climax with the sound of the rainstick suggesting the shingles in the tide. The music fell back quietly to a hushed orchestra with twittering woodwind and percussion holding the music in suspense, before a cornet sounded against the background of a hushed orchestra. There were low growls from the orchestra against quietly shimmering strings before the music slowly rose with brass and timpani to a final surge.

This fine new work from David Matthews conjures up the feel of the sea, whilst using an orchestral palette that is fresh and unusual.

Nobuyuki Tsujii then joined the orchestra for his Proms debut, to perform Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18. Blind since birth, Nobuyuki Tsujii http://www.nobupiano1988.com was joint Gold Medal winner at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He has formed a close relationship with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, touring twice with them to Japan.  

Tsujii took the Moderato at a fairly leisurely pace with some lovely rubato and great clarity of sound. He had a delicacy in certain passages that was very appealing. Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic gave fine accompaniment, very dynamic at times. Attention was never drawn to the most fearsome of passages, Tsujii wearing his technique lightly.

In the adagio sostenuto, Tsujii and the orchestra never let pace drag, allowing the music and its emotion speak for itself. The apparent simplicity that Tsujii brought to the central section was quite affecting. It was difficult not to hear his phenomenal technique in the latter stages of this movement.

In the Allegro Scherzando finale, there was playing of breadth and freedom with Mena and the BBC Philharmonic showing restraint, allowing the more dynamic moments to become all the more telling. The coda, nevertheless, was scintillating. This was a memorable performance by a pianist of maturity and fine musicianship.

As an encore, Tsujii gave the audience Liszt’s La Campanella, in a performance that was both dazzling and entertaining.

After the interval, Juanjo Mena opened Nielsen's Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable, with a terrific life-affirming burst of energy. There were some lovely contributions from individual members of the orchestras as he let the Allegro unfold. In the Poco Allegretto, Mena brought out the individuality of this music, revealing many new facets that made one hear it afresh.

The strings of the BBC Philharmonic burst searingly into the Poco Adagio quasi Andante, taut and full of angst with Mena extracting much tension from the music. There was a lovely quiet central section, beautifully controlled, leading to a fine coda.

In the Con Anima – Allegro, Mena finally let the orchestra have its head, in a really affirmative and stunningly brilliant final movement. He effectively caught the echoes of past reflections that drifted by in the slower section. The BBC Philharmonic’s timpanist provided a tempestuous lead into the glorious coda.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - a review hours after the performance - very impressive.
    I listened in on BBC3 Radio and was thrilled. As soon as I heard the first work, David Matthews's A Vision of the Sea, I knew the concert was off to a good start.
    What a thrill this was for a fan of Nobuyuki Tsujii. Thank you for appreciating his music regardless of his blindness. The tweets for the concert -- and for Nobu -- have been overwhelmingly positive.

    And that roar in the Royal Albert Hall - I am sure Nobu heard it, loud and clear! Thank you, U.K.!