Prom 51: Spain Again

Last Round
Master Peter’s Puppet Show

Jean Rigby (mezzo-soprano)

The Boy – Yvette Bonner (soprano)
Master Peter – Timothy Robinson (tenor)
Don Quixote – Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone)

Birmingham Contemporary Music GroupAlexander Briger

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 27 August, 2002
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

The Hispanic theme made an imaginative entry into this late-evening Prom. Obliquely in the case of Last Round – Osvaldo Golijov’s 1996 recollection of the soul of Argentinean tango, as personified by Astor Piazzolla. From an energetic, incisive opening, the music progresses to a sustained threnody – as much evocation of as elegy for times past, and delivered with intensity by the double quartet of BCMG strings.

Simon Holt’s Canciones (1986) was among the works that established his reputation and still sounds representative today. The three Lorca settings get to the smouldering core of this most emotive of modern poets – whether in the vivid musical onomatopoeia of ’Rider’s Song (1860)’, with its boldly individual treatment of what might be termed ’Stravinskian chording’, or the death-centred folk settings on either side. Jean Rigby’s darkly sensuous tone is ideal in this music, and Alexander Briger directed with commitment if not quite the rhythmic clarity evident in previous performances.

Manuel de Falla will feature prominently in any Spanish-themed season, and Master Peter’s Puppet Show is his most intrinsically Spanish piece. An episode from Cervantes’s Don Quixote furnishes the narrative for this elegant and moving play within a play, in which the knight-errant witnesses and finally intervenes in a puppet drama of chivalry and heroism. Falla intercuts the two layers of action with breathtaking elegance, while the instrumental ensemble ranges over a number of guises from consort to theatre orchestra. Spain’s ’golden age’ is evoked in terms probing and affectionate.

Yvette Bonner’s ringingly-incisive boy-soprano complemented Jonathan Lemalu’s trenchant but not too severe Quixote, with Timothy Robinson contributing a characterful Master Peter. Briger guided BCMG through the score, in all its teasing allusiveness and intricate pastiche, with evident sympathy. An engaging close to a well-planned and absorbing late-nighter.

  • Find out more about BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme for commissioning new music – 0121 616 2616 bcmg

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