Pierre Boulez - Dérive I Haydn - Piano Trio No. 29 in E flat Roberto Gerhard - Leo Bach - Trio Sonata from A Musical Offering Elliott Carter - Asko Concerto Schubert - German Dances D790 Stravinsky - Symphonies of Wind Instruments Boulez - ... cummings ist der Dichter
Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta
Sir William Glock - A Celebration
Monday, December 18, 2000 St JohnCODE(0x1011967c)s, Smith Square, London
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
The legacy of Sir William Glock, particularly his years as Controller, Radio 3 from 1959-72, are a crucial and still (regrettably in some ways) controversial period of the post-war British music scene. So a concert celebrating his contribution to British musical life, far more inclusive than his detractors would admit, was only fitting. Although the evening was not consistently successful artistically, the atmospheric but often muddy acoustic of St Johns not always of benefit, the balance of works performed over the course of a long evening left no doubt as to the breadth of Glocks sympathies, and the conviction behind not just his BBC years, but also his journalistic and administrative pursuits.
Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta opened Part One with Pierre Boulezs understated Dérive I, written in 1984 to mark Glocks retirement as artistic director of the Bath Festival. Haydns Piano Trio No. 29 in E flat was the ideal choice to recall Glocks considerable abilities as a pianist, as well as his interest, long before it became fashionable, in authentic performances of the classical repertoire. The present account was a fine one, though the interplay of Isabelle Faust and Imogen Cooper, with Natalie Clein attentive in the continuo cello part, was often obscured in the acoustic. Knussen and the Sinfonietta returned for a superbly projected account of Roberto Gerhards Leo; dating from 1969, this was his last completed work and a powerful, moving reminder of a singular voice in mid-twentieth century music whom Glock did so much to champion.
The relaxed intricacy of the Trio Sonata from Bachs A Musical Offering should have made an attractive entrée into Part Two, but the seeming lack of co-ordination between violin and flute in Sonneriee performance was compounded by the resonant acoustic. No so Elliott Carters recent Asko Concerto, a chamber concerto for orchestra and an incisive demonstration of the Sinfoniettas instrumental prowess both singly and as an ensemble (though the violist came rather unstuck in his solo contribution). Carter was another of Glocks enthusiasms, and the consistency of his - happily ongoing - compositional achievement was trenchantly displayed in the present work.
Imogen Cooper opened Part Three with a lilting, soulful account of Schuberts German Dances D790, music where ease of technique conceals unexpected depths of expression. Pierre Boulez directed the last two items. Stravinskys Symphonies of Wind Instruments, that paradigm of timeless modernism, sounded poised but slightly blurred, the recourse to the original 1920 orchestration not always apparent. Boulezs own ... cummings ist der Dichter concluded the evening. A brief (10-minute) setting of Cummingss playfully inscrutable verse, the hieratic purity of the 1968 original was softened considerably in the textural enrichment of 1986, though the expressivity of the music came through strongly in this account; certain of the BBC musicians no doubt reminded of the heady years in the 1970s when Glock and Boulez did much to challenge conventions of concert-going as well as repertoire.
As an added memento of the occasion, a CD of Glock in conversation and performance (Haydns Sonata No. 52 in E flat) was included with the programme: appropriate recollections of a figure whose influence was everywhere in evidence at St. Johns that evening