Philharmonia Orchestra

The Philharmonia is my favourite of the London orchestras, so I was bound to enjoy last Friday’s concert. The programme featured three works from the early 20th century, and one UK première of a 21st century work. I’d never heard of the composer Alexander Mosolov, but his piece The Foundry perfectly captured the sounds of a machine shop at the height of the industrial age. This was followed by Arvo Pärt’s 4th Symphony from 2008. Now, I know Pärt’s work is minimalist, but I thought it would have been better if there had been some contrasts between the three movements of this symphony. Only right towards the end of the final movement did we finally hear something different. Pärt himself was in attendance and came down onto the stage to take his bow (slightly reluctantly: conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen had to wave him down as he was sitting in the audience).

After the interval was a brilliant performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, performed by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the keyboard, and from the speed of the notes, it was hard to imaging the pianist only used one hand. But in an interview in the concert programme, he says using two hands would destroy the piece.

Finally, for the climax of the concert, came Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy. There seems to be a lot of Scriabin in the Proms this year, and I’ve yet to figure out why as it isn’t an obvious anniversary. Scriabin was by all accounts a nut-case, and an arrogant one at that, and that came through in the Poem, but in this instance it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s rather an amazing work with a very powerful ending featuring the organ and large orchestra. I definitely recommend listening to this one.

This concert’s moment of hilarity was when the audience started clapping to welcome Salonen back onto the stage, but he didn’t appear. Fortunately, I only ever clap when I can see whoever I’m supposed to be clapping for myself, otherwise I always think it’s rather false applause, not really directed at anyone, and those who clap blindly were caught out on this occasion!

Prom 46
The Foundry
Arvo Pärt Symphony No. 4, ‘Los Angeles’ (UK premiere)
Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Scriabin The Poem of Ecstasy
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet piano
Philharmonia Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

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