Sir George Benjamin: A Duet and a Dream

A Duet and a Dream
Philharmonia Orchestra & Voices, Sir George Benjamin
Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano, James Hall counter-tenor
Royal Festival Hall, 5 March 2020

Knussen: Choral
Messiaen: Le merle bleu (The blue rock thrush) from Catalogue d’oiseaux
Benjamin: Duet for piano & orchestra
Benjamin: Dream of the Song
Janáček: Sinfonietta

A nicely balanced programme of music dating from 1926 to 2015 saw Sir George Benjamin conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in two of his own pieces, together with one of the piano works of his teacher, Messiaen, the 1972 Choral by the influential composer Oliver Knussen with Janáček’s rousing Sinfonietta as a finale. The opening Choral was composed for wind, percussion and double basses, the number 4 appearing to be an underlying thread in the instrumentation. As well as four double basses, there were similar quartets of slithering trombones, fluttering flutes, saxophones, oboes, bassoons and percussionists. It was composed Knussen’s vision of “several funeral procession converging into a point in the distance”, the slow pulse and evolving instrumental colour reinforcing this image. Continue reading

The Divine Poem: Knussen, Sibelius & Scriabin

The Divine Poem: Knussen, Sibelius & Scriabin
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Vladimir Jurowski
 conductor, Leonidas Kavakos violin
Royal Festival Hall, 3 October 2015

Oliver Knussen: Scriabin settings for chamber orchestra
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Alexander Scriabin: Symphony No.3 in C (The Divine Poem)

In a cleverly designed programme featuring two of this year’s anniversary composers, we had the chance to compare the music of Sibelius and Scriabin, born just seven years later. The contrast between the two could not have been greater.

From the very first murmuring of the muted strings of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, the clear image was of the wistful forests and endless lakes of his beloved Finish landscape. Continue reading