Etudes, Violin Concerto in D and The Nightingale,
Daniel Hope(violin) vocal soloists, City of Birmingham
Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Chorus, Sakari
Oramo, Symphony Hall, Birmingham 14.6.2006 (JW)
Soloists in The Nightingale: Anu Komsi
- Nightingale, Roderick Williams - Emperor, Andrew Rees
- Fisherman, Donna Bateman -Cook, Frances McCafferty -
Death, Neal Davies -Chamberlain, Timothy Martin - Bonze
There was a disappointing attendance
for this all-Stravinsky programme, part of the CBSO's
ambitious IgorFest programme, with Birmingham's Symphony
Hall only around half full. Those who were there, however,
enjoyed an excellent and rigorous musical evening and
showed their appreciation warmly.
The concert opened in a slightly understated way, with
the Four Etudes, works written to show the virtuosity
of a particular instrument and transcribed in this incarnation
for full orchestra. The first, showcasing pipe and drum,
was crisply articulated and made a brisk start to the
evening. The second has a complete change of tempo, a
long slow opening and a velvety texture throughout. The
orchestra perhaps faltered a little in this slower movement,
but music director Sakari Oramo soon brought them back
on course and into a second slow movement with long string
chords and a haunted echo to close. The fourth section
of the work,' Madrid' - inspired by that city, where Stravinsky
lived for a short period, is a sudden return to a fast
tempo, recalling traffic, urgency, clamour and hurry.
The sound world is reminscent of 'The Soldier's Tale'.
Flute and percussion deserve a special mention.
This was followed by the Violin Concerto,
where the CBSO where joined by the young and talented
soloist Daniel Hope. This work has a showman-like role
for the soloist, who plays almost continuously in a moto
perpetuo-like part. The first movement has an almost
fairground-like sound world, with repeated turn figures
for the soloist underpinned by full sweeping string chords
from the orchestra and occasional low brass, as if from
a bandstand. The sound was full and warm, with enthusiastic
playing from the orchestra as well as the soloist, the
substantial hall being filled easily by their sound. This
continued throughout the slower second movement and the
distinctive half mournful, half joyful third movement
with its hints of jazz, before a return to the perpetuo
moto style of the opening.
Hope, who retains youthful dynamism whilst showing increasing
maturity, excelled in this demanding part, which he played
with tireless vigour. The orchestral accompaniment was
supple and gave an impression of effortless ease. Commendation
is due particularly to the flute section once again and
for the trumpet solos in the last movement. The audience,
despite its modest size was warmly appreciative of this
After several curtain calls, Hope played Ravel's 'Kaddish'
as an encore, dedicating this to Ligeti, a thoughtful
and moving gesture. The haunting beauty of this piece,
whose sound world contrasted with that of the preceding
Stravinsky concerto, showed off Hope's musical versatility
and was again warmly received in Symphony Hall.
The second half of the evening was given to a concert
performance of Stravinsky's short opera The Nightingale,
based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the same
name. Anu Komski excelled in the title role, her high
soprano having an other-worldly quality ideal for the
part. The baritone Chamberlain (Neal Davies) was particularly
dignified, clear and forceful.
The orchestral playing was also meritorious. The lyrical
opening prelude had a serene beauty most apt to convey
the nocturnal scene. In the second act, the change in
tempo and mood was handled well with rhythmic and precise
playing whose vibrancy filed the hall with sound. Special
merit here goes to the horn section, increasingly called
on as the work progressed.
The peformance was again warmly received, with lengthy
applause and calls, albeit unheeded, for another encore.
The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio Three and
if you were not able to hear it then I would recommend
that you use the 'Listen Again' facility from the Radio
3 website to enjoy this excellent performance, which
combines interesting works with fine musicanship. I would
also commend the rest of Birmingham's 'IgorFest' project,
which continues next Thursday, 22 June, with a programme
of sacred choral music.