The Water Goblin, despite it being based on a ballad by Erben, is just as compelling in the abstract: the emotions exhibited in the tale of a young woman who is taken as the water goblins bride, and the grisly demise of her child, are just as easily made manifest in Dvořáks musical logic. Thus the announcement of the goblins puckish theme and its metamorphoses, interspersed by narrative episodes depicting the fortunes of the other characters in the tale, generate broad sections of tension and release; all of which were carefully managed by Noseda and his orchestra with skill and wry humour. The Goblins awful knocking on the door of the cottage housing the mother and daughter and the subsequent furious storm were particularly astonishing, hurling a more universal concept of Fate and its attendant consequences into the mind of the listener with cruel effectiveness.
I have my reservations about the Violin Concerto, and it is not surprising that the Joseph Joachim, who was the dedicatee of the work and who insisted on numerous revisions, never performed it. So, despite a wonderful performance by James Ehnes, whose generous sonority and immaculate intonation rose organically from a finely detailed orchestral accompaniment, the piece still failed to convince.
Not the case with the great Seventh Symphony, which found orchestra and conductor firing on all cylinders. The Allegro maestoso was thoroughly convincing, with Noseda etching the opening theme into the listeners mind, and allowing the performance to move forward through the dancing, light-filled passages and darker regions with swiftness and authority into a shattering climax. The shards of sound were quietly gathered together to make way for a whole new space in the Poco adagio with wonderful work from the horns and wind soloists that contributed to the Brahmsian hues of this movement, which also culminated in a generously realised crescendo. The scherzo was punchy without feeling rushed, the Poco meno moso trio sufficiently graceful. The final Allegro gathered together all these interpretive ideas, by turns brooding and elated, and with excellent ensemble, too, enhanced by superb string playing.
We were sent home with The Dance of the Comedians from Smetanas The Bartered Bride. Its a pity the hall was nowhere its capacity an orchestra and a conductor of this calibre deserve better patronage.
- Concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 4 October at 7.30
- BBC Philharmonic