Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed

Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed
Philharmonia Orchestra
Philharmonia Voices, Rodolfus Choir
Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Stephen Fry
Royal Festival Hall, 15 March 2020

Symphony 6 (Pastoral); Ah! perfido, Op.65; Gloria from Mass in C; Piano Concerto 4; Symphony 5; Sanctus & Benedictus from Mass in C; Fantasia in G minor for piano, Op.77; ‘Choral Fantasy’ in C minor for piano, chorus & orchestra, Op.80

In the first of his several pop-up moments, the genial compere Stephen Fry announced that this was probably “the last mass gathering there will be at for some time”. The empty seats in what was an almost sold-out concert reflected the sorry story, as did the Government announcements the following day. But this day was Beethoven’s, with the Philharmonia Orchestra‘s recreation of Beethoven’s famous 1808 ‘Akademie’ concert. Given just a few days before Christmas at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, the original concert consisted entirely of the works of the one composer. It included the first performances of several major works, including the 5th & 6thSymphonies, the 4th Piano Concerto and the hastily put-together Choral Fantasy. Continue reading

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