The title is taken from the Seventh Holy Sonnet of John Donne:
At the round earths imagind corners,though with no literal analogy intended. Rather the imagined quality seems to refer to the larger space made possible by the varied placing of the horns. One of these remains seated between woodwind and brass, but the other four pursue a concertante function, and their movement during the course of the work gravitating from offstage (the halls acoustic chamber put to evocative use), then to the centre-front of the platform, and finally to the corners of the stage defines the three-part form of the work.
Your trumpets, Angels, and arise, arise.
Parallel to this is the type of horn playing employed: opening with understated equal tuning, heard over gorgeously translucent string harmonies, in the slow first section; accelerating to an animated passage where the cors de chasse character of natural-horn playing is vividly evoked through just intonation; then to a climax of antiphonal alphorn-like calls as the orchestral writing reaches a peak of density and excitement.
Imagind Corners, in its sensitive use of harmonic overtones and scintillating instrumental interplay, looks back to Andersons earliest mature works, notably Diptych and the chamber piece Tiramisú now with an orchestral command that denotes time well spent with an orchestra of the CBSOs calibre. At barely nine minutes, it is briefer than expected, but its tensile momentum and intrinsic quality are never in doubt. The five obbligato horn players proved more than equal to the challenge, and Sakari Oramo directed with his customary flair.
This latter quality was then placed at the service of Beethovens First Symphony. Too often heard as part of an integral cycle, or as an entrée to the Ninth, this deceptively unassuming piece wears its Classical credentials with not a little anticipation of expressive intensities to come. Oramos fastidious sense of balance and articulation ensured a forceful though never high-pressured reading, at its most perceptive in the lightly-sprung rhythmic interplay of the Andante and dynamic forward motion of the Finale.
After the interval, Verklärte Nacht in Schoenbergs 1943 transcription interestingly the first time that the orchestra has played the work. No slight to Oramos interpretation, but Richard Dehmels poem, which provided the musics inspiration, seemed less evident, or indeed relevant. From the outset, this was an abstractly-conceived view harnessing changes of mood in the lengthy second and fourth sections to variations in harmonic density and melodic contour, with the shorter sections framing them in securely focused expression. Whether or not Oramo has conducted or in his capacity as a violinist, played the work before, this was a performance that demonstrated the all-round prowess of the CBSOs strings to an admirable degree.
- Imagind Corners is repeated at Symphony Hall on Thursday, 14 March, with music by Berlioz, Ravel and Mussorgsky
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