Reviewed from live BBC Radio 3 broadcast... I had an invitation to this concert and would have attended happily, but it wasn’t possible. Hence this review from the wireless, a term more apt to 1967 when the European Broadcasting Union music exchange scheme started and has been going strong ever since – cutting across countries and continents. Fifty years on, to the date, a celebration was in order; now, like then, it was London broadcasting to the World, for the first EBU concert was in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Benjamin Britten conducted, and both presentations featured K364.
Only right that the current concert should feature something new and Dobrinka Tabakova’s piece proved to be arresting – wild, rhythmically punchy, roulades of notes, colourful, and broadening to an affecting depth of expression and then a likeable spring-like mobility building inexorably to referencing from Monteverdi’s Orfeo, the EBU musical calling-card. Johannes Wildner and the versatile BBC Concert Orchestra did a good job with it, as they did the Britten, vital and eloquently bittersweet as required, with some standout harp-playing to match the composer’s imaginative writing. Although militaristic ghosts and bucolic violins should not be overlooked, it is the sad and lamenting final movement that haunts the imagination, here with the cor anglais solo most sensitively played by Victoria Walpole.
Back then Britten’s beloved Mozart had featured Norbert Brainin and Peter Schidlof (members of the Amadeus Quartet). Half-a-century later this mellifluous, warm-sounding, well-paced account found Esther Yoo and Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad (both BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists, as is/was Pavel Kolesnikov) creating a fine duo, especially sublime in the slow movement and spirited in the Finale without making it a Presto blur. Throughout, Wildner and the BBCCO were attentive. As they were for Kolesnikov in an expansive ‘Emperor’ (literally a popular choice), gently touched, not heroic in an obvious way (nickname-debunking), expressively detailed (things often missed in the bassoon coming through) with ear-catching drops to pp and also rising in intensity with surety. By contrast however refined and enchanted the slow movement was it also came across as a little restless, and if the Finale had plenty of spirit, it was sometimes a little smudged, on the nifty side.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)