Benedetti offers a long concert running out of ideas, as well as the best of September classical music concerts

Benedetti offers a long concert running out of ideas, as well as the best of September classical music concerts

Benedetti offers a long concert running out of ideas, as well as the best of September classical music concerts

Nicola Benedetti - Mark Allan

Nicola Benedetti – Mark Allan

Proms, Søndergård / Benedetti, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall ★★★ ☆☆

Nicola Benedetti’s presence at the Proms always guarantees a full Albert Hall, and her fans here have had full value in at least one sense: playing the longest violin concerto in her repertoire, she has been on stage with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for 45 minutes. But it was a very long 45 minutes, since the duration of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto in D far exceeds his inspiration.

Marsalis’ work creates an expectation it will never meet: that “in re” label is loaded with associations of two of the greatest violin concertos, by Beethoven and Brahms. Perhaps it is intended as a joke, but like so much else in this dilated and discontinuous score it falls flat. Since it premiered way back in 2015 by Benedetti (for whom it was written) and subsequently recorded, the Proms should have known each other better, although perhaps they have to keep themselves in the game with the enthusiasm of Benedetti, now director of the Festival of Edinburgh.

He definitely put his heart into this performance, making the most of those few promising ideas that Marsalis never really develops. Long lyrical lines lend the opening an atmosphere full of suspense and narrative, but the music spreads subtly as delicate violin phrases alternate with big band climaxes. The four movements, compared by the composer to the four corners of the world, sound too much the same: a world seen from the lounges of transcontinental airports.

Neither really a rondo nor a burlesque, the second “Rondo Burlesque” movement leads through a seemingly infinite cadence (in dialogue with the drums) to a “Blues” movement, which lives more languidly up to its title. In the ending of “Hootenanny”, the barn dance meets cèilidh before the soloist leaves the stage, playing again as the music fades.

The remainder of this Anglo-American program consisted of suites from plays, which opened with Thomas Adès’ Three-Piece Suite from Powder Her Face, his 1995 work on the scandalous life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. Soft and fragile, all three movements are consistent in their ruthlessness yet brilliantly orchestrated, and were conducted with playful precision by Thomas Søndergård, the recently announced RSNO Music Director to succeed Osma Vänskä at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Peter Grimes’ Britten’s Four Sea Interludes received broad treatment that lost some of their menacing cold, but Bernstein’s West Side Story symphonic dances mixed hijackings with haunting beauty and ultimately revealed the heart of the concert. JA

Listen to this prom for 30 days via BBC iPlayer. The Proms continue until September 11, all broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and iPlayer. Ball tickets: 020 7070 4441; bbc.co.uk/proms

Proms, BBC SO / Kanellakis, Royal Albert Hall ★★★★ ☆

Karina Kanellakis directs BBC SO at the Proms - Chris Christodoulou

Karina Kanellakis directs BBC SO at the Proms – Chris Christodoulou

Despite its reputation as a bastion of tradition, the Proms are actually super eager to pop up at the last minute. Sometimes, like with the Gaming Prom a few weeks ago, it simply celebrates a new trend wholeheartedly. At the prom on Monday night, there was a brand new piece, bTunes, by French-American composer Betsy Jolas, who did something different, recording a new trend while keeping it at a critical distance, as one would expect from. a composer who is alone has turned 96 and has seen many trends come and go.

bTunes is an ironic reflection on the culture of the “playlist” and its horrible tendency to reduce our attention span, expressed in the form of small fragments of piano pieces that Jolas has composed over the years, intertwined in a dialogue with the orchestra. It begins with a comic moment, when orchestra leader Stephen Bryant stood up and reluctantly “conducted” some cymbal crashes and peremptory plucked notes. Eventually, soloist Nicholas Hodges and conductor Karina Kanellakis stumbled, mimicking embarrassment at the delay, and took over.

A quick series of musical snapshots followed, none lasting more than about 20 seconds. We heard explosions of Lisztian / modernist heroism brilliantly sent by Hodges, pompous fake fanfare, modernist fake jokes and jokes, and only occasionally a haunting moment of utter stillness. It was as fun and quirky as Erik Satie’s music might have been if he had lived in the postwar modernist era. Under the restlessness, one could vaguely glimpse the presence of a musical thread, and thanks to this the danger inherent in a piece that commented on the irrelevant nature of playlists – that is, which ends up being irrelevant in itself – was almost kept at bay. .

On the sides of this piece of musical thistle there were two works of reassuring seriousness and solidity. First came Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus overture, thrown with such explosive force under Kanellakis’ incisive wand that I almost jumped off my seat. After the intermission came Mahler’s first symphony, a piece so exaggerated that I always wonder how the next performance could make it sound new. But I needn’t have worried. Kanellakis’ direction reminded us that this is a young man’s symphony giving it a spring freshness and urgency, and it clearly inspired musicians to give it their all. This was the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 11th prom, but they played with the same fire and delicacy as the first night. How do they do it? IH

Listen to this prom for 30 days via BBC iPlayer. The Proms continue until September 11, all broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and iPlayer. Ball tickets: 020 7070 4441; bbc.co.uk/proms

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