Epiclesis: A Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
Lemminkäinen Legends, Op.22 [Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari; The Swan of Tuonela; Lemminkäinen in Tuonela; Lemminkäinen’s Return]
Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet)
London Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 1 November, 2009
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Kristjan Järvi was certainly enjoying himself; there was a lot of activity on the podium and encouraging the LSO to be loud and noisy; certainly ‘March of the Trolls’ was, fast and furious too, as the close of Grieg’s Lyric Suite, the conductor more interested in turning to the audience with a “wasn’t that good?” smile rather than worrying about getting the final chord together. Didn’t do much for me, but fine I guess if you like a show! Otherwise the intensity was wearing, the ‘Shepherd Boy’ first movement overwrought and a little rough in ensemble. ‘Bell Ringing’ was added to Grieg’s orchestration of the other four movements (originally for piano), presumably in Anton Seidl’s scoring, and fared well, its dissonant impressionism well caught.
Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends was played in the composer’s revised ordering, a good reason for doing so even if the two longest pieces followed by ‘The Swan’ remains more satisfying. The performance, however brilliantly played, was disappointing and uninvolving given that Järvi seemed interested only in the surface of the music and, once again, encouraged a brightly-lit response (brass often overloud and edgy-sounding) and with tempos that were headlong and gabbling. ‘Lemminkäinen’s Return’ had a certain headiness, but this palled before the piece ended, and ‘The Swan’, for all Christine Pendrill’s sensitivity on cor anglais, lacked soulful darkness. In short, plenty of incident and energy, but there was little beyond the display.
As for James MacMillan’s Epiclesis (1993), there is a much drama and waves of sound, and the exuberant dance that breaks through at least has a profile. Edge of seat stuff, potentially, sometimes MacMillan’s concern for theatrical devices rather than musical ones compromises the level we are supposed to listen at. No doubts though as to Ole Edvard Antonsen’s remarkable performance, his impeccable virtuosity and luminous tone, or that Järvi had found his mark.