Even amongst a season featuring an impressive array of commissions and premières by Magnus Lindberg, Harrison Birtwistle, James Horner, Colin Matthews and Benjamin Wallfisch, Julian Anderson’s newest work stands out as one of the most exciting events in the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2014-2015 programme. Formerly the ensemble’s composer-in-residence (between 2010 and 2014), the partnership produced a number of high-class works and recordings. This latest work proved once again Anderson’s mastery of the orchestral medium, but fell flat in other aspects.
Saturday saw the BBC Symphony Orchestra open their 2013/14 season with an evening of firsts. Not only was this Sakari Oramo’s first Barbican season concert as Chief Conductor, but the programme placed a première by leading “spectral” composer Tristan Murail alongside Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto and Mahler’s First Symphony.
This fifth and final Proms Saturday Matinee concluded the Saturday-afternoon Marking of Benjamins Britten’s centenary year by placing him in the context of his British contemporaries with works by Tippett and Walton. Included was the premiere of Britten’s Elegy for Strings. It seemed appropriate that this piece new to us was performed by a group making its Proms debut. Camerata Nordica plays without conductor or with the use chairs (for the upper strings, anyway), adding visual drama to its performance.
With his centenary year fast approaching, Saturday night’s concert was a celebration of all things Britten. The festivities have certainly begun in style in Oxford, with Nicholas Cleobury leading the Oxford Bach Choir, the English Chamber Orchestra and soprano Elizabeth Atherton in some truly outstanding music-making. Mixing works by Britten himself with those by composers who influenced him, the performances of the majority of the pieces were dynamic and committed, and certainly made for a memorable evening.