Twill by Twilight – In memory of Morton Feldman
Nocturne, for tenor solo, seven obbligato instruments and string orchestra, Op.60
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.43
Ian Bostridge (tenor)
Reviewed by: Helen Pearce
Reviewed: 10 October, 2009
Venue: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
A mesmerising tapestry of vibrant instrumental colours and textures, Toru Takemitsu’s Twill by Twilight was performed here under fellow-Japanese Yutaka Sado. Sensitive to the meditative quality of the work, Sado guided the BBC Philharmonic through a kaleidoscope of sounds and patterns which shifted slowly in and out of focus. Takemitsu’s cosmic soundworld was evoked superbly and stands as a fitting tribute to his friend Morton Feldman (1926-1987), himself a master of slowly evolving, seemingly time-less musical gestures.
An otherworldly quality continued into Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturne” (1958) with Ian Bostridge. An unassuming performer, Bostridge captivated as he led us through an assortment of texts exploring the oft-unsettling nature of sleep and dreams. He displayed a striking expressive range (never exploited to the detriment of his of tone or enunciation), as convincing in the ethereal opening as in his anguished cry of “Sleep no more!” which concludes the Wordsworth setting. Just as Twill by Twilight is characterised by interweaving textures and patterns, “Nocturne” seamlessly slips from one dream-world into another, the lilting string figure which opens the work returning intermittently to help effect such transitions. While the strings provided a blanket of warmth in more tranquil moments, the wind, harp and timpani soloists excelled in their demanding obbligato roles. Displaying an abundance of technical competence and musicality, the soloists provided expressive foils to the tenor’s narrative.
In stark contrast to the static, contemplative quality of the Takemitsu, Sibelius’s Second Symphony provided a tour de force of mounting energy and tension. Revelling in the grand, sweeping melodies of the strings, Sado might have nurtured the wind passages more during the first and second movements. The brass required little encouragement to indulge in Sibelius’s magnificent fanfares, performing throughout with great warmth and grandeur. I have yet to meet someone whose walking pace would have matched the slowness of Sado’s second movement Andante. Sections of the finale, too, narrowly avoided feeling laboured. But avoid it they did, and Sado succeeded in engineering some marvellous climaxes as the work built towards its final, ecstatic declaration. Sado might have taken his time in reaching it, but the hard-fought return to D major proved well worth the wait.