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Charming Russian works from Sheku Kanneh-Mason and the San Francisco Symphony led by Salonen – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United StatesUnited States Numerous: Sheku Kanneh-Mason (cello), San Francisco Symphony / Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor). Davies Symphony Corridor, San Francisco, 13.6.2024. (HS)

Esa-Pekka Salonen acknowledges the viewers’s enthusiastic welcome © Stefan Cohen/SFS

Shostakovich – Cello Concerto No.1 in E-flat main
Sofia GubaidulinaFairytale Poem for Orchestra
TchaikovskyFrancesca da Rimini

Depart it to conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to do an all-Russian program with out calling it that, and to decide on music that may not be the primary items which come to thoughts. On Thursday, this system began with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1. After an intermission, Sofia Gubaidulina’s 1971 Fairytale Poem paired with Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, works with little in widespread besides that they’re each tone poems by Russian composers.

The star automobile for this live performance featured on-the-rise cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, already a British MBE on the tender age of 25. Shostakovich’s half-hour-long concerto, a tour-de-force for the soloist, frames an aching, sluggish motion and intensive cadenza with jittery outer actions that wallow within the composer’s signature ominous environment.

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and the San Francisco Symphony © Stefan Cohen/SFS

Kanneh-Mason will get the primary notes, and he executed the brusque five-note motif with an applicable feeling of anxious questioning. Salonen picked that up with the orchestra, and off they went right into a musical dialogue that by no means misplaced a way of held-back depth. The motion’s abrupt ending got here as a shock, despite the fact that I knew it was coming.

The glory of the efficiency was the sluggish motion. Marked moderato, it glided in on lyrical enjoying from the strings, the cellist’s grittier response making a welcome distinction. The motion developed earlier than lastly receding right into a quiet repose. The cadenza entered virtually imperceptibly. Within the rating, it’s a entire separate motion of its personal. With garlands from the celesta and delicate punches from orchestral chords, the cello’s poetic melody progressively constructed as much as an eye-opening, ear-dazzling flurry of double-stops, triple-stops, pizzicato with same-time arco phrases – all impressively executed.

That led easily to an more and more ferocious finale, wherein soloist and orchestra dug into the quick rhythms with unanimity. The unique five-note motif bought a juicy underlining because it returned within the remaining measures, solely this time it’s decreased to 4 notes, resulting in a crisp end.

As an encore, Kanneh-Mason supplied Prelude No.18 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a Soviet composer who was a recent of Shostakovich’s. A type of lament-tinged sarabande, considered one of 24 which have turn into signature works for a number of top-tier cellists, the gorgeous rendering harked again properly to the sluggish motion of the concerto however with a special character.

Salonen picked up a microphone to introduce Fairytale Poem, and the viewers greeted him with a torrent of applause, a heartfelt tribute to a music director who not too long ago introduced that he’s leaving the orchestra a 12 months from now. In his remarks, Salonen level out that Soviet composers, trepidatious about writing very dissonant music for worry of incomes rebukes (or worse) from the Soviet authorities, usually ‘flew underneath the radar’ in works for radio and tv which drew much less scrutiny than live performance items or operas did.

(As an apart, he identified that the identical factor occurred in the USA within the Nineteen Seventies the place composers may get away with ranges of dissonance in TV and film scores that may have been scorned in concert events.)

To our twenty-first century ears, Gubaidulina’s 1971 tone poem delivers loads of allure. Regardless of an often-thorny musical language, it’s straightforward to listen to how the colours of her orchestration and taut sense of kind may accompany the stunning little story by Czech creator Miloš Macourek. A chunk of white chalk desires of drawing castles and seashores on a blackboard as a substitute of math formulation. It lastly will get the prospect as a discarded nub when a boy rescues it and makes use of it to attract precisely these issues.

The orchestral model, with out narration, supplied ten minutes of sonic delights, particularly the fascinating interactions amongst woodwinds, harps and percussion.

Francesco da Rimini bought a exact and punctiliously paced efficiency however lacked the surges and Romantic abandon of Tchaikovsky’s tackle a chapter in Dante’s Inferno a few liaison between Francesca and the married Paolo. They find yourself in Dante’s second stage of hell, so there’s loads of doable juice to the music. Though it pales compared to Romeo and Juliet, Tchaikovsky’s different literary tone poem, it may possibly whip up a storm when it will get an unbuttoned efficiency, which this was not.

Harvey Steiman

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