Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Poor old Erich

Oh dear. I hate writing things like this.

I know Korngold is difficult to play, difficult even to decipher, and can be overwritten etc etc, but still I don't think that's any excuse for what I heard last night.

It purported to be the Sinfonietta that EWK penned at the tender age of 15 and which induced Sibelius to describe the youngster as 'a young eagle'. Of course it's great that they programmed it - but I couldn't think when I last heard a professional orchestra and conductor produce such a dreadful performance of anything.

Most of it went around half the necessary tempi. The balance was non-existent. The dynamic contrasts likewise. Light, shade, colour, ebb, flow, the white-hot energy that flows in Korngold's musical veins, all were spectacular by their absence. Some of the players seemed to be struggling and ensemble didn't really come into it. My companion put it well, saying she was astounded that such non-four-square music could be made to sound - utterly four-square. Korngold normally changes his time signatures and expressive instructions every few bars - flexibility is crucial... The best I can say is that they played it at all.

The culprits? The BBC Concert Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth. One didn't expect the Berlin Philharmonic, of course, but it was depressing, particularly as the concert was well sold and most people there would never have heard the piece before and won't know how beautiful it can be. Besides, Wordsworth is probably the only conductor in Britain who knows the work well, having performed it a number of times at the Royal Ballet for La Ronde. Perhaps it would have been better if he'd decided just before the concert that he didn't believe in it...

Before the interval our friends Philippe Graffin and Raphael Wallfisch did a splendid job with the Miklos Rozsa Sinfonia Concertante and afterwards we all went for a pizza, which was nice.