Beethoven faces up to Matthews and wins with Oramo and the BBC SO

‘Sakari Oramo’s first season as Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra is now well under way, and Wednesday night’s concert at the Barbican demonstrated his musical intelligence not only in performance but also in programming. A new work by Colin Matthews, Traces Remain, explores the relationship between harmony’s tonal past and its atonal present through a network of quotations; similarly, Schumann’s Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra finds a voice for the newly-chromatic valved horn, but one proudly indebted to the instrument’s outdoor, signalling history. Though it may seem an odd choice, Oramo never allowed Beethoven’s monumental third symphony, theEroica, to rest on its laurels. Rather, it was an Eroica for the modern day, saturated with the traces of the end result of Beethoven’s savage dissonances and rhythmic dislocations. Curiously, it was this latter work, rather than the new commission, that shone as the highlight of the programme. Too clever by half, Matthews’ myriad tonal quotations stalled rather than invigorated the music, and an appealingly individual compositional voice was all but lost under references that were all too explicit’

Read the whole review at Bachtrack here.


The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Josep Pons in Schreker and other 20th-century gems

‘How refreshing it was to see Franz Schreker’s name on a programme next to established classics by Schoenberg and Ravel! The Austrian composer’s 1918 opera Die Gezeichneten, the overture to which opened the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s concert with Josep Pons, has yet to be seen in the UK, and there is much unjustly neglected music to be heard amongst the Austrian’s oeuvre. Next to poignant elegies by Busoni and Ravel, as well as the latter’s erotically perfumed Shéhérazade (with Nora Gubisch) and Schoenberg’s early masterpiece the Chamber Symphony no. 1, the 20-minute overture was no mere trifle but an integral and major part of the evening. Such a shame, then, that its performance did not seem so careful and measured as that of several of the other works on the programme. Innovative programming showcasing the huge variety of sounds from the beginning of the 20th century – all these works were written within 20 years of each other – was let down by very mixed execution from Pons, however beautiful the BBC SO’s playing may have been.’

Read the whole review at Bachtrack here.