La forza del destino – Overture
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Symphony No.4 in D minor, Op.120 [Revised Version, 1851]
Sarah Tynan (soprano)
James Ehnes (violin)
Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel
Reviewed: 13 August, 2010
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of Max Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto that you can fill the Royal Albert Hall with a Prom including a major work by Dallapiccola and a symphony by Schumann (never a crowd puller). The Bruch was craftily programmed to open the second half when logic dictated that it should have closed the first.
The opener though was the Overture to Verdi’s “The Force of Destiny”, Gianandrea Noseda drawing on his operatic experience to shape an account that was full of drama and expectation with fine playing from the BBC Philharmonic – pungent brass in the fateful opening motif and an expressive contribution from the woodwinds in the famous melody that follows.
Luigi Dallapiccola’s Partita was the work that made his name in Italy in the early 1930s, remaining one of his largest and most significant orchestral works. Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic have been recording a survey of his works over the past few years, Partita being included on a recent Chandos. It’s a beautiful work, drawing on all forms of influences with a nod particularly in the direction of neo-classicism, although it’s most certainly a work of striking originality. At half-an-hour in length and symphonic in scale, the four movements of Partita inhabit different soundworlds, from the sombre tone of the opening ‘Passacaglia’ to the almost schizophrenic rush of the following ‘Burlesca’. The contrasting violence and string tremolandos of the third finally give way to the serene and exquisitely shaped setting of the medieval Latin “Lullaby of the Blessed Virgin Mary” with soprano solo, in which textures were beguiling and Sarah Tynan’s sweet soprano voice floated around the Hall, although her Latin was hard to decipher at times. After the turbulence of the previous movements the work ends on a note of tranquillity with a coda marked ‘celestiale’ featuring celesta, harp and bells. Noseda and his players, with their recent recording under their belts, responded magnificently to Dallapiccola’s demands with playing of precision and commitment. Balances were spot-on, all sections clearly audible in tuttis.
Simplicity and directness were the keywords in James Ehnes’s approach to the Bruch concerto. Here was a textbook performance greatly helped by steady, flowing tempos set by Noseda aided by a sympathetic response from the BBC players. Ehnes, blessed with a rock-solid technique and playing refreshingly free of mannerism, brought out the full blooded romanticism of the first movement and the yearning lyricism of the Adagio, skilfully staying well clear of any sentimentality. His straightforward manner could at times veer towards blandness and although the finale moved along at a fair lick, one could have wished for rather more character in the Hungarian-flavoured dance passages. Ehnes offered an appropriately acrobatic account of a Paganini Caprice (No.16) as an encore.
The closing Schumann symphony was light, bright and attractively played. Schumann’s symphonies are often criticised for their muddy textures, the Fourth especially, but this was an example of how a fresh and unforced style can yield highly enjoyable results even if there was some tonal thinness in the violins. It’s a revolutionary work, four movements in one, which confused the symphony’s first audiences. Noseda clearly signposted the movement transitions without sacrificing the architecture of the piece. Particularly impressive was the impetus and tension he created into the rousing finale, a logical conclusion to everything that had gone before.