May 25 2013 Latest news:
Monday, August 20, 2012
We may all be enjoying the summer’s high temperatures. But try the BBC Proms—they can be smoking hot, writes Allis Moss.
The London Philharmonic under their principle conductor, Russian-born Vladimir Jurowsky, created a kind of fantasy on Saturday (August 18) at the Royal Albert in an enthralling programme of Weber, Mahler and a Tchaikovsky un-numbered, rarely performed symphony.
The evening’s themes of obsession, love and magic were every bit as powerful as those in Tolkein’s Rings saga.
First, was the Overture from Weber’s Der Freischutz, the story of love triumphing in the forces of good and evil in the form of the forest demon, Samiel.
Then mezzo-soprano Alice Coote joined the orchestra for Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen—Songs of A Wayfarer.
A young wayfarer walking in the fresh morning dew of a spring meadow is immune to nature’s charms as he mulls over a lost love.
The performance of the four-piece song-cycle, which has been said to be like a symphony in its own right, beautifully evoked the sense of mood and place under Jurowsky’s baton.
Nor were we immune to Coote’s performance, as cool, clear and refreshing as a draught of fresh spring water.
The fanfare, however, came with Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony in B Minor, Opus 58, based on Byron’s creation of a loner riddled by guilt over a past and mysterious love, Astarte.
Unlike the Russian master’s other symphonic works, this is not numbered, but thought to have been written between his Fourth and Fifth symphonies and left unfinished.
It is named for its dark hero, Manfred, a man who has dabbled with the black arts and is now to be found wandering alone in the mountains where he encounters an Apline witch, appearing to him in the rainbow droplets of a waterfall.
It is the eternal struggle between good and evil again. In Manfred, an abbot tries to save a tormented soul, but fails.
Tchaikovsky’s finale, like that of Berlioz’s Symphanie Fantastique, is ablaze and riotous with the ominous tolling of bells and the organ crescendo, raising the drama to fever pitch.
In only the 10th airing of Manfred at the Henry Wood Promenades, the Philharmonic treated us to a performance full of contrasts, delicacy and fire, with its double harps, triple woodwind, and host of timpani.
For those wanting more—or who missed out—there is another chance to enjoy Jurowski conducting the London Phil on March 2 next year, when the they perform Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera as part of their next season at the Royal Festival on the Southbank.