Prom 52: Britten Sinfonia – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana & Stravinsky’s Fairy’s Kiss | Marc-André Hamelin premieres Wigglesworth’s Piano Concerto | Wigglesworth & Hamelin play Mozart K365

Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K365*
Suite No.4 in G, Op.61 (Mozartiana)
Ryan Wigglesworth
Piano Concerto [BBC co-commission with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: world premiere]
La baiser de la fée – Divertimento

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)

Britten Sinfonia
Ryan Wigglesworth (piano*)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 28 August, 2019
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

BBC Proms 2019's Prom 52Ryan Wigglesworth and Britten Sinfonia during rehearsalPhotograph: Twitter @BBCPromsReviewed from live BBC Radio 3 broadcast… Mozart inspires Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky motivates Stravinsky. Mozart writes a Concerto for Two Pianos (for himself and his sister), Ryan Wigglesworth composes a Piano Concerto for Paul Lewis (who on the night turns out to be Marc-André Hamelin), and Wigglesworth is also showcased as conductor and pianist. Chuck in the Britten Sinfonia for a neatly designed all-through Proms package.

The night before at the Proms Wigglesworth had conducted The Magic Flute. He remained with Mozart and the E-flat of the Overture for a reading of K365 full of joie de vivre and friendly conversation, Hamelin and Wigglesworth making an equable partnership as pianists, the latter ensuring a festive element to the orchestral introduction, the first-movement tempo well-set for clarity, shape and agreeable interplay from all concerned. The slow movement has a plaintive quality, a yearning refrain, revealed sensitively here, and the Finale, without rushing, sparkled and was full of bonhomie.

In his ‘Mozartiana’ Suite, Tchaikovsky orchestrates three of Wolfgang Amadeus’s piano pieces – a spiky Gigue, a courtly Minuet (leaning to doleful), and finally a Theme (from Gluck) and Variations – with, placed-third, via Liszt’s transcription (who also embraced Allegri’s Miserere), the Ave verum corpus (K618). Tchaikovsky’s scoring is classically respectful (akin to his Rococo Variations) for which Wigglesworth led a stylish and affectionate account, especially eloquent/sacred in III (a harp suggesting Sleeping Beauty) and well-characterised were the delightful and distended diversions of IV (fifteen minutes), cymbals and (Magic Flute) glockenspiel adding bright colours; lovely woodwind contributions, too (clarinet cadenza courtesy of Joy Farrell), and not forgetting Thomas Gould on violin.

BBC Proms 2019's Prom 52Ryan Wigglesworth and Britten Sinfonia during rehearsalPhotograph: Twitter @BBCPromsStravinsky’s transformation of Tchaikovsky songs and piano miniatures for his ballet-score The Fairy’s Kiss (1928, after Hans Christian Andersen) yielded more-concise fruit for the concert-hall Divertimento; expressive and jaunty music; nostalgic too, with sad and dark elements. The performance was excellent, capturing with rhythmic flair and poetic sensitivity the music’s drama, swagger, dance-turns and pathos.

Before the Stravinsky, Wigglesworth’s twenty-minute (shorter than expected), four-movement Piano Concerto, a Baroque and Classical background spoken in a modern tongue, quite expressionist (Schoenbergian) in the opening ‘Arioso’, rather beautiful as well, rising in emotional intensity, the piano musing prior to a ‘Scherzo and Trio’ arriving without warning, the former scurrying, nightmarish, contrasted with something more-whimsically lyrical, if troubled. The succeeding ‘Notturno’ (the scoring reduced to strings and harp) has something of a lullaby about it, if enigmatically and eerily – with a suggestion of Bartókian night music – the attached response being a flute-led ‘Gigue’ that goes through rapid twists and turns before seemingly running into a cul de sac, the piano ending alone, a reverse gear not part of its armoury.

Hamelin (himself a composer) might have been a late entrant into this premiere, but he played with complete mastery a part that is first-among-equals with the orchestra. It’s a really impressive piece.

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