Philharmonia Orchestra Music of Today – Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova

Kurtág
Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova, Op.17

Susan Narucki (soprano)

Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Baldur Brönnimann


Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 23 June, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

It hardly seems a decade since Julian Anderson took over from James MacMillan as artistic director of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series, since when his breadth of sympathies has been evident across the six early-evening concerts each season. That the last concert of his final term should have consisted of György Kurtág’s Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova (1980) should not come as any surprise, especially given that the alternative Modernism to which this piece drew attention when first unveiled three decades ago is one from which numerous composers have drawn inspiration – not least Anderson himself – and which still represents a valid ‘way forward’ judging by the music frequently encountered at MOT.

The performance itself was alive to the music’s extremes of ecstasy and despondency: Susan Narucki (who replaced an indisposed Claire Booth at short notice) evincing all of the technical acuity and expressive sensitivity which have made her so doughty an advocate of contemporary vocal repertoire, while the pool of musicians drawn largely from the Philharmonia Orchestra ensured that the ‘ensemble of soloists’ called for by the composer’s often unsparing demands was more than equal to the task. This is not the place to consider the semantic implications of Rimma Dalos’s verse or Kurtág’s inimitable response to it; better to note that the work’s desperate intensity was palpably conveyed in a fine account directed by Baldur Brönnimann.

Thus the second phase of MOT comes to a close and, while one can hardly fault the concerts on the basis of the music presented (and often for the first time) to London audiences, and even less the commitment of the performances, it remains a pity that not more of these events could have been tied into the concerts that proceeded them. On which point, over to Unsuk Chin.


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