Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus – Overture
Capriccio espagnol, Op.34
En saga, Op.9
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Prelude to Act I; Prelude to Act III – Dance of the Apprentices – Entry of the Mastersingers
London Symphony Orchestra
Lord Birkett (Non-voting Chairman)
Dame Anne Evans
Award presented by HRH The Duke of Kent
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 19 October, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The bi-annual Donatella Flick Conducting Competition was this time open to conductors under the age of 35 on 19 October 2006 who are citizens of countries that are full members of the (ever-expanding) European Union. Stage 1 (17 October) found 20 conductors rehearsing and performing the Royal Academy of Music Orchestra in Bizet, Haydn and Warlock, and, then, on 18 October, 10 semi-finalists worked on Mozart, Rossini and Britten.
And then there were three – for the Final at the Barbican Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra, each conductor leading Beethoven’s ‘Prometheus’ Overture and a work chosen by lot.
First up was Ivan Arboleya-Montes (from Spain, aged 33). His Beethoven was dramatic, the introduction expressive and glowing, the turn into the allegro deftly achieved and the whole was shapely and detailed. (He reminded, at times, of Riccardo Muti.) The ‘Spanish Caprice’, Arboleya-Montes now making use of a baton, had some bite to it although the percussion played out a bit too much; but there was some admirable solo work and Arboleya-Montes’s sense of fantasy was beguiling.
Stuart Stratford (British, 33), baton-less throughout, gave a robust account of the Beethoven, his arms whirling like helicopter blades, and the main allegro fizzed by; if not without grace, there was something too mechanical about this account for all the LSO’s spot-on response. Sibelius’s En saga initially seemed too cool, too objective, although the clarity was admirable. The lack of impetus undermined the music’s narrative, although the interior-quiet and fragility of the work’s still-centre was hypnotic. In the reflective close, during which coughing and audience-noise was a problem, Chi-Yu Mo floated a magical clarinet solo.
Last on was Michal Dworzyński (Poland, 27). In text-book terms he ‘looked’ the most complete conductor (and was the only one of the three Finalists to don tails). His Beethoven was moderate but not especially transparent, and rather bullish. As for the ‘suite’ from ‘Mastersingers’ … well. If you like Wagner overblown and crude, then this was fine. The Prelude to Act I (here termed ‘Overture’), with LSO brass let off the leash and with cymbal clashes to wake the dead, was awash with sound, but little else: a Technicolor production. Dworzńyzski did show a more sensitive side in the Prelude to Act III, but it was neither nocturnal nor soulful enough. The Apprentices entered strictly, without playfulness, and the return of the processional from the opening Prelude again found decibels alone raising the roof.
It was Dworzyński that won.
The next Donatella Flick Conducting Competition is in the Autumn of 2008.