Fifty years separate the first two works in this “Notes of Nostalgia” concert, homesickness the common denominator, Britten’s beloved Suffolk and Dvořák’s native Bohemia; both works conceived respectively in California and New York. Perhaps then it was appropriate for New Yorker James Feddeck to be at the helm of this Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra programme.
He brought off a vivid account of Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, with a wonderfully etched ‘Dawn’; crystalline violins, fluttering woodwind and charcoal-grey brass summoning huge skies, herring gulls and North Sea rollers, its bleak intensity loaded with tragic import. ‘Sunday Morning’ was a bustling concoction, its glittering detail conjuring a self-important community on its way to church. The slow processional that is ‘Moonlight’ was a controlled affair (perhaps a little too hesitant at times) but eventually gathered itself into a brooding climax. Its tensions found release in a ferocious ‘Storm’ – with the BSO on impassioned and blazing form – Feddeck drawing out physical turbulence and layers of psychological trauma.
Dvořák’s Cello Concerto has unearthed some wonderful performers in its hundred-year-plus history. Daniel Müller-Schott is no exception and produced an account in which he fully identified with the work’s changeable emotions. The first movement’s well-paced introduction combined the imperious and the heartfelt, its climatic passages set in relief by Ruth Spicer’s soothing horn solo. A confident Müller-Schott soon got into his stride and while hectic passagework was dispatched with authority he was more at ease in reverie, yet chameleon-like able to adjust colour accordingly. The Adagio was glorious, its yearning beautifully conveyed in half-whispered, lingering phrases (with much delightful collaboration from Anna Pyne’s flute and a trio of horns) that brought us to the core of the composer’s reminiscences. Müller-Schott found just the right blend of sugar-coated musing and generous warmth, both qualities captivating in the closing pages of the Finale where Feddeck drew playing of exquisite delicacy. Further lyricism came in the shape of Pablo Casals's arrangement of the Catalan lullaby ‘Song of the Birds’ – dreamy and poised.
And on to the visionary Death and Transfiguration written at the age of twenty-four by firebrand Richard Strauss whose extraordinarily mature tone poem is both masterly for its leap of imagination and its lavish scoring. It’s a compelling work and one which needs plenty of shape to bring off its triumphant narrative and traversal of brooding agitation and sublime resting place. There was much to admire, with Feddeck bringing the full weight of the BSO to bear in some wonderfully volcanic climaxes, pushing the tempo forward thrillingly – luminous solo violin and poetic woodwind making the most of their moments of glory. Temptation for sentimentality was avoided and whilst arching phrases in the closing section could have had more shape this was a clear-sighted reading, the transfiguration noble and heart-easing. The BSO played magnificently, with much refinement and fierce commitment.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)