Such an impression was made more so thanks to the advocacy of Viviane Hagner little known as yet in the UK, but whose security of articulation and undemonstrative ease in a work written with her musicianship in mind confirmed a performer of stature. Martyn Brabbins ensured alert and sensitive accompaniment if such it can be termed! from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Earlier, he had done justice to La Péri (1912), the poème dansé with which Paul Dukas signed off (at least in public) as a composer. Following the arresting opening fanfare, the ballet itself has that sense of restrained yearning and capriciousness which are familiar Dukas traits, with an underlying drive to ensure it never lapses into indulgence or expressive conceit. Less perfectly achieved as a span of music than Debussys Jeux (which it foreshadows in several particulars), La Péri made possible a direction in French music continued by composers as distinct as Roussel, Dutilleux and Ohana. Its revival is always welcome.
Not so much, perhaps, Also sprach Zarathustra Strausss revelling in Nietzschean controversy, which can lack the wit of his earlier tone poems or the personality of those that followed. Brabbins kept the sunrise prelude firmly in check, and went some way to making the piece audibly cohere as pure music. One or two misjudgements (an Of Science fugue lacking gravitas, and an overly long pause before The Convalescent) were outweighed by the overall clarity of conception. Even so the BBC might have given us the Second Symphony of either Roussel or Dutilleux albeit not many would have shown up, or left at the interval an assignment that so wide-ranging a conductor as Brabbins would doubtless have relished.
- Concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 5 April at 2 p.m.