Schubert, Schumann and Mozart

The penultimate concert of the second half-season featured the BBC’s Manchester-based orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic. Like their London counterpart, the male players wear white jackets. They appeared with their Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda in what must be one of his last concerts before stepping down. The orchestra seemed to be sitting a long way from the front of the stage, probably because they were reduced in numbers due to the demands of the pieces scheduled for the evening. It did have the advantage of the players not neeting to move out of the way when the piano was brought on.

The first work was Schubert’s Unfinished symphony. During the opening bars, you could have heard a pin drop. The orchestra sounded so clear as they played the first of the two themes that runs throughout the first movement. I’ve always quite liked this movement in particular, in the way it interweaves the two themes. Following on from Schubert was Schumann, with a piano work that’s considered in effect to be his second piano concerto. Apparently, his first piano concerto was originally a similar work that he split into three movements. The Introduction and Allegro appassionato is still performed as a single-movement work, but is very concerto-like. Irish pianist Finghin Collins, resplendent in a tailcoat, put in a splendid performance of this fairly demanding work.

After the interval was a première of a BBC commission, and not having a programme, I didn’t know what to expect: “RELIQUARY: Scenes from the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, enclosing an instrumentation of Schumann’s ‘Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart'”. Now I have been able to read the programme notes online, I understand what it is about. Schumann wrote settings of five texts supposedly by Mary, Queen of Scots, but his version is not very highly regarded. The BBC commissioned Robin Holloway to write a new orchestration of the songs, and he linked them together with instrumental interludes to make them into a coherent work. It was actually quite clever, and listenable too. The music was traditionally-composed, but at times with an almost cinematic feel, and had a definite Elizabethan sound, particularly with the drums. Anyway, this was the sort of BBC commission I like to see. Robin Holloway came on stage at the end, but it seemed he couldn’t look at the audience. He must be shy, or suffer from stage fright, in which case I feel sorry for him. Not all composers seek the limelight. They shouldn’t have to go on stage to take a bow at a première if it makes them uncomfortable.

The concert concluded with one of Mozart’s most popular symphonies, No. 40, which again was given a clear and precise performance by the BBC Philharmonic.

Prom 74
Symphony No. 8 in B minor, ‘Unfinished’
Schumann Introduction and Allegro appassionato in G major, Op. 92
Robin Holloway RELIQUARY: Scenes from the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, enclosing an instrumentation of Schumann‘s ‘Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart’ (BBC commission: world premiere)
Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G minor
Dorothea Röschmann soprano
Finghin Collins piano
BBC Philharmonic
Gianandrea Noseda conductor

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