Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable – Nagle, Sibelius & Brahms

Until I die there will be sounds [World premiere]
Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Russell Keable

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 11 June, 2012
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

Russell KeableThe Kensington Symphony closed its 56th Season ‘In C’ – major and minor – with Brahms’s expansive, long-gestated First Symphony, a journey from darkness to light, and Sibelius’s concentrated Seventh, the symphony as a form compressed into 20 minutes or so.

The concert opened with Peter Nagle’s Until I die there will be sounds. Owing much to John Cage’s philosophising, and with his (in)famous 4’33” a significant part of the influencing (a close study of that score suggests it can incorporate anything and everything!), Nagle has created a “low-volume” set of chords that perhaps owe more to Schoenberg’s ‘Farben’ (Five Orchestral Pieces, Opus 16) without quite emulating it. An expectant glow was forthcoming, but such pregnancy did not give birth.

Sibelius’s remarkable Seventh, with so much packed into a relatively short playing time, was given an appropriately rigorous outing. But those lyrical passages can expand more and quiet playing was at a premium. Nevertheless, Russell Keable’s tight rein on the piece paid many dividends, the symphony’s contours and direction clearly lit and played with commitment.

The Brahms clinched the success of the concert with an ebb and flow that didn’t undermine the whole. This was a splendid performance, sure of itself, solos well taken. Keable surprised by leaving out the exposition repeat in the first movement (but it’s generally a wise thing to do – only Blomstedt and Boult have persuaded this listener otherwise) and enhanced the symphony’s goal, a momentous liberation for the composer, so long in the shadow of Beethoven, he believed. There was freshness to this account that brought it alive, cobwebs dusted away, forward-moving yet lyrically generous and culminating in triumph and a resounding final chord.

The KSO opens its 2012-13 Season on 15 October with an enticing programme of Berlioz, Berg and Stravinsky (the complete Firebird).

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