A Cardiff programme of rarities and discoveries – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Schmidt, Liebermann, Bach/Markevitch: Matthew Featherstone (flute), BBC Nationwide Orchestra of Wales/Jonathan Berman. Hoddinott Corridor, Cardiff, 21.10.2022. (PCG)

Matthew Featherstone in rehearsal

Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. Igor Markevitch – Ricercar a 3 from The Musical Providing
Lowell Liebermann – Flute Concerto Op.39 (1992)
Franz Schmidt – Symphony No.2 in E flat (1913)

Regardless of the perfect endeavours of his proponents and protagonists, Franz Schmidt’s 4 symphonies have by no means actually established themselves outdoors the confines of Austria and Germany, within the method that these of Mahler and Bruckner slowly achieved throughout the twentieth century. It was all of the extra welcome, then, that the BBC Nationwide Orchestra of Wales gave us the huge fifty-minute Second Symphony because the second a part of this live performance. Amongst different issues, to expertise the music in stay efficiency tended to negate the impression – conveyed by recorded performances – of items that have been over-heavily orchestrated, with an excessive amount of contrapuntal element to permit for readability of expression.

The rating of the second symphony, with its triple and quadruple woodwind and closely sub-divided string sections, is certainly laden with harmonic and textural element and ornamentation to an excessive diploma of complexity. One is reminded in locations of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with out the floor glitter; Schmidt strictly limits his percussive contributions, and eschews altogether using harps or tuned percussion. However stay efficiency helps to disentangle the online. There are occasions when one needs the composer would realise that extra just isn’t essentially simpler than much less, and that he would keep away from the temptation so as to add yet one more line of counterpoint to the feel. Nonetheless, the writing got here throughout clearly even when the turmoil was at its most excessive. The sheer pace and complexity of the calls for on the gamers often produced some surprising squawks, however the general contours have been clearly deliminated to be appreciated.

Actually, Schmidt appears virtually to have made a acutely aware effort to manage his pure exuberance after the Mahlerian turmoil of the primary motion. The second motion is a set of variations wherein the orchestral highlight is turned individually onto woodwind, brass or strings, and there’s a welcome sense of lightness and distinction. Abruptly, in direction of the tip, the ninth variation extends itself in each type and weight to provide a scherzo, so marked within the rating. There comply with a trio-variation and an additional improvement of the scherzo materials, for the mixed impact of a semi-independent motion. The excellence between winds and strings continues into the finale, the place a chorale melody is contrasted with materials of accelerating complexity. That results in a conclusion which mixes each parts at a positively Brucknerian size. The tip introduced appreciable enthusiasm from the viewers, smallish – the corridor was lower than half full – however suitably impressed by the music. One hopes to listen to extra Schmidt in future. As I’ve famous, the readability of stay efficiency is a particular benefit over even essentially the most analytical of recordings.

One would definitely count on to listen to extra of Lowell Liebermann. His willingness to supply up to date audiences with music of talent and artistry is at all times welcome, not least within the flute concerto he wrote some thirty years in the past for James Galway. The concerto opens charmingly with the flute melody which floats over plodding bass strains within the brass and results in equally witty contrasts all through. This evokes the spirit of Prokofiev in his most balletic moods. The gradual motion, very lovely certainly, begins with a way of rapt ecstasy and strikes into extra sinister territory earlier than the reconciliation of the conclusion. However this was not the cool magnificence that one typically finds in minimalist scores. A wellspring of richly purposeful emotion lay beneath, and Matthew Featherstone’s beautiful enjoying gave it full measure. Against this, the finale was a helter-skelter of good approach, delivered via a collection of transient episodes wherein the soloist was paired and contrasted with different members of the orchestra. We heard bass clarinet, harp, piano and even at one level a ornament woven round a melodic line within the piccolo! The entire led to a delightfully offbeat method. The flute immediately fell silent on the ultimate be aware and the soloist gave a nonchalant shrug within the method of “that is simply the way it goes”. Matthew Featherstone is an actual treasure of this orchestra, and it was pleasing to see that he was given an enthusiastic reception each by the viewers and by his fellow gamers. His efficiency was a gem.

The live performance had begun with Igor Markevitch’s imaginative association of the smaller-scale fugal motion from Bach’s Musical Providing. Right here once more a lot use was product of the spatial differentiation of the string gamers. They have been divided into two stereophonically positioned our bodies of gamers certain collectively by a stable physique of double bass tone on the outer extremities of the orchestra. This distribution of the person gamers, with an remoted trio of soloists within the centre, helped to make clear Bach’s contrapuntal textures. The music made an fascinating, albeit transient, introduction to a live performance wherein the distinction between our bodies of devices shaped an integral a part of the entire in all three of the featured works. By no means thoughts that it required an unscheduled interval of some 5 minutes to permit the orchestra to re-arrange themselves afterwards.

All through the efficiency, Jonathan Berman proved to be an environment friendly and concerned conductor, and the selection of the repertory was significantly revolutionary. The live performance, we have been instructed, was being recorded for future transmission within the BBC’s Radio 3 in live performance collection, after which it could be accessible to stream or obtain for thirty days on BBC Sounds. Liebermann’s concerto is especially extremely advisable to listeners. If the engineers can seize the clarified textures we heard within the corridor, Schmidt’s symphony could properly show revelatory as properly.

Paul Corfield Godfrey