Joseph Phibbs Clarinet Concerto world premiere

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					                                                                             Photo: Fran Kaufman

                                                                                                         Joseph Phibbs Clarinet Concerto
                                                                                                         world premiere

                                                                                                              he enterprising and innovative Orch-
                                                                                                         T    estra of the Swan is based in Stratford-
                                                                                                         upon-Avon and on October 28 at Cadogan
                                                                                                         Hall offered an attractive programme of
                                                                                                         music conducted by David Curtis that reg-
                                                                                                         rettably visits the concert-hall infrequently,
                                                                                                         and including a keenly anticipated prem-
                                                                                                         iere. That said, the (non-credited) arrange-
                                                                                                         ment – with a few bars removed and some
                                                                                                         other changes – for strings (and thus rem-
                                                                                                         oving the original’s full-orchestra colour) of
 Marc-André Hamelin                                                                                      Copland’s Hoe-Down was given a tame,
                                                                                                         rather cautious outing. Samuel Barber’s
                                                                                                         Adagio for Strings followed; and for all that
Spain a hundred years ago and he made            The eloquence which Mozart’s thoughts                   sixteen players may be thought not enough
El Puerto, an impression of the little fishing   assumed on this occasion arose from                     for music that the composer envisaged for
village of Santa Maria in the bay of Cádiz,      historical understanding and historical                 the full string weight of a symphony orch-
seem full of happy bustle with forceful          imagination shaped by a seemingly unsur-                estra, this ‘halfway house’ account (the
outbursts of bulerías stamping. Likewise, El     passable keyboard technique.                            original is for string quartet) was given a
Albaicín, once the Gypsy quarter of Granada         A quite different sort of intensity was              dignified, moving and intense account.
on a hill facing the Alhambra, had an            evident in Liszt’s Venezia e Napoli.                         A similar inconsistency informed Appal-
abrupt painful rapture. The whole of Ibéria      Extremes of virtuosity were matched with                achian Spring, given in Suite form but in
was a patchwork of beautiful things, loos-       unfathomably poetic ideas as the piano                  the original scoring, with the strings already
ely stitched, and Pizarro gave us not only       became an altogether different instrument               three-more in number than Copland’s
an evening of superlative piano playing but      from anything Haydn or Mozart could have                overall instrumentation of 13 musicians,
aroused vivid recollections of Spain itself.     known. The keyboard prompted Liszt to                   which meant that flute, clarinet and bass
Max Harrison                                     make extraordinary discoveries amid the                 41oon were lost in the loudest ensemble
                                                 measureless caverns of his imagination.                 passages, only the piano making it through.
                                                    Following this, after the interval, with             There was no doubting that the slower and
Marc-André Hamelin                               Fauré’s Nocturne No.6 showed rare insight               reflective passages were susceptible and
The Wigmore Hall                                 on Hamelin’s part. Here the conventional                poignant, but the faster ones didn’t quite
                                                 ABA form was complicated by episodes                    have the emotional-coursing that this
      hat linked all works making up Marc-       within episodes, the long melodies thread-              music needs, an immersed identification
W     André Hamelin’s programme on Friday
November 13 was that they all made
                                                 ing their way through all sorts of rhythmic
                                                 ambiguities, Hamelin shaping the whole
                                                                                                         rather than the ‘straight bat’ if disciplined
                                                                                                         and dedicated approach apparent.
significant innovations. Haydn’s extraordin-     with a rapt sense of wo
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