Prom 8: Bournemouth Symphony

Fandango sopra un basso del Padre Soler [revised version of 1992]
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37
Vaughan Williams
Symphony No.4 in F minor

Paul Lewis (piano)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Paul Daniel

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 25 July, 2002
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Paul Daniel is a good organiser. Hans Werner Henze’s elaboration of Soler’s harpsichord fandango (the same piece that Roberto Sierra utilised in his enjoyable piece played on the First Night) needs careful balance and punctilious attention to detail and rhythm. This it received in a confidence performance. What Daniel couldn’t disguise is that Henze’s 15-minute piece for large orchestra, even in its revision, is too long – the open-ended conclusion would be more effective five minutes earlier. With Henze, of course, there is always much fine listening as he treats the ear to multifarious colours and a complex, ever-changing surface, Soler’s bass line omnipresent as the music accumulates in intensity and melodies thread their way through Henze’s shadowy and intense soundworld.

If Paul Daniel can balance and blend expertly, he is also a civilising influence – not good for Beethoven. The opening tutti of the concerto needed more drama and heft although Paul Lewis did offer Beethovenian gruffness in his first entry. Daniel, alive to Beethoven’s peccadilloes, and proving a sensitive, alert accompanist, never quite gelled with Lewis until the ’Finale’. Lewis, sensitively accommodating of the orchestra, impressed with his honest playing, his lack of artifice being a real plus-point. The cadenza – both ice-cold and boiling-over – was made the focal point, the emotional temperature noticeably increasing; the last thing needed to greet the close of the opening movement though was applause – a moment of reflection was required. Lewis’s handling of the slow movement’s florid extensions was imperious (Daniel’s chaste approach coming more into its own) as was the pianist’s poise and clarity throughout. Yet this rather tapered account had something vital missing – it was absorbing while being performed but there was little to remember afterwards.

Vaughan Williams’s Fourth Symphony, apart from being a great work, is one that should grab you by the throat for its thirty minutes and leave the listener drained. Not here, for Daniel was not nearly enough inside the music. It was certainly well prepared and well played, yet anyone conducting this piece has to project it with more venom and headlong voltage than did Daniel. Whether cool or objective or comfortable is the right word to describe this rendition, the music’s anger was contained. Avoiding audience intrusion in the process, Daniel made an effective transition from the first movement to the ’Andante moderato’, which was hauntingly realised. Daniel’s occupation with sound and balance paid dividends in this lonely and disturbing music that mingles Sibelian desolation with modal expression and a stalking bass; the effect, with some superb wind and string playing (not least Emer McDonough’s flute solos), was concentrated and magnetic.

  • BBC Radio 3 re-broadcast Monday, 29 July, at 2 o’clock

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