The Trojans Royal Hunt and Storm; Vallon sonore Glazunov
Chant du ménestrel Janacek
Taras Bulba Mozart
Concerto for three pianos in F, K242 Sarasate
Bachianas brasileiras No.1 Préludio
James Naughtie (compère)
Ian Bostridge (tenor)
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
Sarah Chang (violin)
Imogen Cooper, Mitsuko Uchida & Radu Lupu (pianos)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Sir Colin Davis 75th-Birthday Concert
Wednesday, September 25, 2002 Barbican Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
A happy occasion and on the day itself, which reflected Sir Colins modest and unassuming persona. The focus therefore was on the music and perhaps emphasised the time taken up attending to Royal protocol, platform moves and introductions: 80 minutes of music was played in a two-and-three-quarter-hour timeframe. Villa-Loboss tedious piece, for cello and seven more cellos, seemed an odd choice: not a composer associated with Davis, who wasnt conducting it anyway, and Slava returned immediately for Glazunovs altogether more engaging Song of the Minstrel. Sarah Changs was a syrupy delivery of gypsy airs; her thin-toned and tight bravura passages suggested she is some way off emulating daredevil fiddlers of yesteryear.
There was, of course, much to enjoy, not least Sir Colins virile, passionate and refined conducting, his baton weaving expressive curves and inspiring both orchestra and listener. Daviss natural musicianship has always been a source of pleasure and satisfaction. The man himself is thoughtful and open in conversation, at recording sessions and rehearsals he is hard-working and rousing I recall him training the Guildhall School Orchestra and turning Sibelius 7 from a relative shambles into something world-class in just two hours and come the breaks he is approachable and genial. James Naughtie introduced Davis as hero and friend, and when we all sang Happy Birthday, it was Colin rather than Sir Colin at the as applicable bit.
Berlioz began the evening, a thrilling Royal Hunt. Time and again, Daviss rapport with this composer makes even the smallest details significant. Antiphonal off-stage horns and more backstage brass worked a treat; the choir was missed albeit heard in ones inner ear. Ian Bostridges light timbre came into its own for Hylass song.
Having three poetic pianists together was special. Minor Mozart K242 might be but the slow movement was ethereal. Im not sure I actually heard Radu Lupu play a note he had Part III, the easy one but hes such a great artist that hes worth listening to even when inaudible. A snatch of Happy Birthday was sneaked into the first movement cadenza.
That leaves a marvellous Taras Bulba, the LSO in swaggering form. Davis conducted Taras in March last year for the first time? As before he has the measure of the musics clamour and intimacy and Janaceks quixotic scoring and mobile structures. That Sir Colin seemed to find references to Tapiola and Symphonie fantastique shouldnt surprise. The expression ran from the visceral to the sweetest of sounds, from the graphic to the hypnotic, from reminiscence to redemption a challenging and individual view, one compelling, authoritative and revealing.
May there be many more years of Colin Daviss non-egotistical and rewarding music-making.