United Kingdom BBC Proms 2022, Promenade 22 – Xenakis, Shostakovich, Beethoven: Henry Baldwin (percussion), Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Tom Service (presenter), Aurora Orchestra / Nicholas Collon (conductor / presenter). Royal Albert Corridor, London, 2.8.2022. (CC)
Xenakis – O-Mega (1997)
Shostakovich – Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, Op.99 (1947/8, rev. 1955)
Beethoven – Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67 (1807/8)
Written for 13 devices and percussion, O-Mega, Xenakis’s final work has all of that nice composer’s key traits, however they’re concentrated into an virtually Webernian span of 4 unforgiving minutes. The emotional hit is huge. The title explains in its very construction the derivation of the work ‘Omega’ (O-Mega actually means ‘massive O’). Because the final letter of the Greek alphabet, there may be definitely one thing inbuilt that’s valedictory, and so a terse summation appears solely so as. We hear the music in blocks, with musicians in the back of the stage. On this efficiency, much less uncooked than some, one heard panels of sound, a stately processional heard towards nagging drum riffs. Henry Baldwin was the superb foregrounded percussionist, an unbiased spirit towards regimental marital forces. It’s all too straightforward maybe to think about from that the thought of how Shostakovich wrote his First Violin Concerto in a state of despair.
It was Patricia Kopatchinskaja who was because of carry out this piece in Strasbourg in Could; she was changed on that event at two days’ discover by Simone Lamsma (assessment click on right here). Kopatchinskaja is no doubt a power of nature and we noticed that repeatedly right here, from the coiled vitality of her physique posture ready for the opening of the Scherzo to the superhuman efficiency of the notorious cadenza. The Aurora Orchestra beneath Collon had been effective companions, however Shokhakimov in Strasbourg persuaded his gamers to inhabit the piece extra. Kopatchinskaja performed the threnody of the primary motion (marked Nocturne) with an unflagging however withheld vitality, daring to whisper, the odd bow shake presumably the results of one more danger. We heard the strain within the pianissimi as a lot as within the climaxes. The apex of her account was the Scherzo, the Aurora woodwind taking part in with quicksilver responses, a great deal of spirit right here, with simply the occasional second of occlusion (troublesome to keep away from on this venue) – by far probably the most profitable motion.
It was the Passacaglia and the following cadenza that got here the closest to searing depth right here, Kopatchinskaja digging in as solely she will and offering actual pressure between notes and phrases within the cadenza, her pianissimi drawing the big viewers to silence. The Burlesque finale was generally solely simply collectively, although one remembered the preternatural ensemble of the Strasbourg efficiency clearly, and the additional abandon Lamsma delivered to the very shut.
There was additionally a barely uncomfortable feeling that it was Kopatchinskaja who was carrying the efficiency. The orchestra sounded gentle, considerably insubstantial for this work. Fairly rightly, no encore regardless of extended applause. ‘I do know it’s the Proms,’ stated PatKop; ‘I like you all and also you deserve an encore. However after such a chunk, which was written out of shock and despair about struggle and tyranny and despots, I believe there may be nothing else to say’. She gave us a message for our time, for certain, and she or he did it by way of probably the most eloquent approach potential, Shostakovich’s music.
The second half had Tom Service and Nicholas Collon run-through the Beethoven Fifth Symphony we might hear, with musical excerpts additionally carried out by reminiscence by the Aurora Orchestra, which was fascinating. Service received us all clapping (shades of Hervé Niquet at Versailles not too long ago, when he break up the viewers into sections throughout the efficiency of an opera, and had us all sing – sure, sing! – Frère Jacques in a spherical). With the assistance of 4 percussionists right here, Collon and Service had been capable of present how Beethoven wrote chains of the primary motion’s prevailing rhythm work, and the way the rhythm is used as an accompaniment to the contrasting topic.
Good to listen to the presenters ask questions in addition to inform the viewers stuff: is the second motion a prayer, muttered speech? Is there even an ‘Amen” (the tail-end of the phrase). We additionally received hints of the efficiency to return interpretatively – the quick velocity and light-weight textures linked sure passages of the second motion strongly to the following symphony, the ‘Pastoral’. Fascinating, too, to listen to the hyperlink to Mozart’s fortieth Symphony finale embedded in Beethoven’s sketchbooks. The substitution of the Marseillaise as a substitute of the particular starting of the finale was each amusing and stimulating – the thought of a revolutionary track echoing across the streets of Vienna on the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Collon suggests the precise theme relies on tropes current in these songs, and that Beethoven conjures up a marching band by way of the addition of the three devices that arrive on this finale: contrabassoon, a trio of trombones and a piccolo. Cue a lot of enjoyable – ‘put your palms within the air while you hear the Marseillaise, down if Beethoven’ in an unholy mishmash to show a degree. Very intelligent – and level taken.
The precise efficiency itself was gripping – tensile within the first motion, like a coiled spring. I do surprise why they use authentic trumpets and timpani however trendy valved horns (and you’ll hear the smoothness of the valve horn within the first motion). Collon’s consideration to element was outstanding – he formed phrases, even brief ones, virtually tenderly inside the general C minor vitality, no straightforward feat. Hunches that the sluggish motion (truly not very sluggish) was going to shine turned out to be appropriate. It was a dream, a revelation even. Tripping woodwind, fantastically clean strings all conspired to create Beethoven magic.
Whereas that tensile core of the primary motion returned for the Scherzo, it was the Trio that impressed, the double-basses scampering with scrumptious readability and lightness. The finale benefitted from the drama of the repeat; it had emerged from a well-calibrated build-up (I’m wondering if anybody heard the Marseillaise of their head?). Price mentioning the stability sounded higher within the corridor than on radio (within the latter, the trumpets are inclined to dominate fairly). The coda felt solely pure, if not overwhelming. Good, too, to listen to low/no vibrato strings on this efficiency, reflecting the efficiency’s general buoyancy and, significantly, readability.
Good, too, to see a near-capacity corridor. Sure, Beethoven Fifth within the second half with listening information is probably a pull; however Shostakovich and Xenakis (even when it’s solely 4 minutes’ price) within the first, one would have thought, would postpone some. However apparently not, and that, certainly, is trigger for celebration in itself.