Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Italian’ Concert Sparkles

01/12/2016

Elgar, Mendelssohn, R. Strauss: Sebastian Knauer (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Alexander Shelley (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 30.11.2016. (IL)

ElgarIn the South (Alassio)

Mendelssohn  – Piano  Concerto No.2 in D minor

R.StraussAus Italien – Symphonic Fantasy

One of my fondest memories is of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s electrifying 1967 EMI recording of Elgar’s In the South conducted by Constantin Silvestri, now available on a Warner CD. This is an acclaimed classic recording, thoroughly recommended. Alexander Shelley’s reading at this concert had high voltage. The extended episode suggesting the glory of ancient Rome was delivered with crushing, domineering authority, yet the lovely “canto populare” — Elgar’s own invention — was exquisitely phrased on the section leader Tom Beer’s solo viola (usually the Cinderella of the orchestra), and the refrain especially beautifully echoed by the cellos.

This whole concert was imaginatively and intelligently conceived, with interesting links between the three works. Mendelssohn was something of a role model for the young student Richard Strauss. Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Concerto has always been overshadowed by its predecessor, notably because it was perceived (wrongly) as having nothing new to say and lacking virtuoso opportunity.  This is a shame, for this more modest under-stated work has much to recommend it. Sebastian Knauer’s reading sparkled. He took a comparatively light but supple and colourful approach. His opening Allegro appassionato was joyous. His Adagio sang delicately and most heartwarmingly in Mendelssohn’s dulcet “song-without-words” manner.  Shelley with his much reduced orchestra gave polished, stylish support.

Richard Strauss was barely twenty when he wrote Aus Italien in 1884. Michael Kennedy’s acclaimed biography of the composer barely mentions it.  It was Strauss’s first attempt at writing in what would become his indulgent, highly coloured and complex tone-poem style. Yet it is in fact a four movement symphony and, as observers have remarked, not unlike Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony.  The first two movements reflect the composer’s awe and delight at the beauties of the countryside around Rome and associations with its glorious past.  Both were evocatively realised under Shelley’s baton but what impressed me most was the third movement set on a Sorrento beach. Here Shelley realistically evoked shifting zephyr breezes ruffling a calm sea surface under azure skies. I was more than ever before struck by a clear directional pointer towards Debussy and La Mer some 20 years ahead and to Atterberg’s “West Coast Pictures” Symphony No. 3.  Strauss’s orchestration for Aus Italien leans towards Liszt or perhaps Tchaikovsky at this point. There is, nevertheless, notable richness of sonority here, the multi-part string writing for instance deliciously enunciated and made transparent by the Bournemouth players. There is also much to be admired about the material for woodwinds and brass. All together in the notorious finale based on Denza’s song “Funiculi, funicula”, they performed Strauss’s wrangled tangled version with great enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Ian Lace

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Sundays for a Fiver Festival in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre Reopens in December 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Chamber Music Festival October 2018 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Appreciation Talks this Autumn from Helen Astrid __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Major Work by Stanford to be Premiered – 99 Years Late! __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month