Saturday, 21 August 2010


19/8/10, Royal Albert Hall

3 hrs. The BBC Scottish Symphony with Martyn Brabbins and a Mozart overture, Liszt piano concerto, Sheherazade, then after the interview an unlistenable new work by James Dillon and Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony. I was knackered and it was a long concert, so the second half was a bit of a blur.

The Mozart (Der Schauspieldirektor) was short, polite and inoffensive. The Liszt was played by Boris Giltburg, replacing Boris Berezovsky for "contractual reasons", whatever that means (a row about the fee? double booking?). It's a serious work but for the first two movements piano and orchestra could have been playing separate pieces. The pianist delivers himself of a great tract of noisy, dramatic, flamboyant, romantic angst; the orchestra plays a few notes; the soloist starts up again while the orchestra rests its instruments and watches. There's more integration, more dialogue in the third movement, but overall the impression was unsatisfactory. Yet the Prommers loved the soloist, who was brought back for a (lengthy) encore.

Sherehezade is long too. I'd forgotten how long, even though it's almost tediously familiar thanks to an Ann Rachlin tape we used to play in the car when the kids were young. But it is marvellous, colourful stuff with great tunes and orchestral effects (and hearing a work in live performance with whoch you're already familiar is usually more a help than a hindrance because it enables you to spot differences in interpretation and emphasis). Half the orchestra seemed to be employed as soloists at one point or another. The "Sheherezade" passages for solo violin and harp and the woodwind solos were particularly attractive. And it boasted six percussionists. It also had a third trumpeter who sat mute throughout the first two movements and only raised his instrument briefly in the third, much to our relief (D nudged me to make sure I didn't miss it: he'd become a positive distraction).

The Dillon (called La Navette) was a long drone involving at times the whole orchestra, with the usual cliches: sudden brief eruptions from the brass; little twiddly bits, equally sudden, equally arbitrary, from the woodwind; every conceivable type of percussion.

The Tchaikovsky (which we didn't know) was enjoyable and accessible and culminated in a typical Tchaikobsky march which he flogged to death, typically, repeating it over and over until it threatened to become a pain.

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