Ancient Airs and Dances – Suite No.3
Horn Concerto (The Gothic) [Detroit Symphony Orchestra commission: world premiere]
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Karl Pituch (horn)
Yoonshin Song (violin)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 24 May, 2013
Venue: Orchestra Hall, Detroit, Michigan
A morning kick-off in Detroit (10.45 to be precise), another welcome webcast that landed live in London five hours later by the clock and also throughout the world (excepting any territories with www bans!). Ottorino Respighi’s 1932 dressing of melodies from centuries earlier flowed with affection and was very agreeably played by the DSO strings under Leonard Slatkin’s genial direction; charming and noble music given with grace, vitality and eloquence.
Kerry Turner’s new Horn Concerto proved a rather unengaging 20 minutes’ worth, the composer (born 1960) laying down his own gauntlet by launching the work in the style of Richard Strauss, employing motifs from his Second Horn Concerto that he then couldn’t emulate during the first movement or in the subsequent three. Turner is a noted horn-player and no doubt his writing for the instrument is totally idiomatic, and his orchestral scoring seemed skilled, save for the over-use of percussion that tinkles. The first movement was the most likeable – colourful and light – if undermined by the Straussian references. After that, there was little to get hold of. Karl Pituch (DSO principal) gave a masterly showing, easefully virtuoso and thoughtfully musical. Why the Concerto is called ‘The Gothic’ I know not – and the music itself offered no clue – but it’s a dangerous title to coin for it can only bring to mind Havergal Brian’s huge Symphony No.1.
After the interval one of the most demanding of violin concertos, Brahms’s, which shone the spotlight on DSO Concertmaster Yoonshin Song. Slatkin’s conducting of the introduction was expectant and ripe, Yoonshin Song’s first entry impressive and impassioned, her tone sweet and rich, her phasing heartfelt, particularly in the lyrical sections – confiding, spacious and with-direction – and attentively accompanied; Joseph Joachim’s ‘usual’ cadenza (there are alternatives) was commandingly realised. The slow movement opened with a poetically expressive oboe solo, the whole raptly communicated, with the finale measured but confidently emphatic and trenchant. This was an excellent, focussed and stimulating performance, notably collegiate, from which Yoonshin Song emerged with distinction.