Five performers from BBC Radio 3s Brahms Experience tell us about their favourite under-loved work and why it should be played more often
City Halls, GlasgowThis BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra debut of pieces by the countrys young composers revealed a shared aesthetic from finespun to pure fun
An exciting debut in the pit and another on stage set the seal on ENOs terrific new Girl of the Golden West
Dvoráks Sixth Symphony (1880), with its cross-rhythm Furiant Scherzo and soaring melodies, was written for Vienna but is as richly and distinctively Slavonic as anything the composer wrote. It has a tender inner spirit and benign fervour deliciously explored here in a warm, subtle performance delivered with pin-sharp exactitude. If the opening bars sound like a tribute to the Symphony No 2 of Dvoráks friend Brahms, the work unfolds with a style and imprint that could only be Dvoráks. Originally for piano, the American Suite (1894), weaving New World jazziness with old Bohemian folk, is buoyant and wistful in this orchestral version, full of those sliding key shifts Dvorák loved. Switzerlands oldest orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan make a beguiling, expert team.
If one function of art is to make us ponder difficult questions and thus risk causing offence, there could not be a more potent example than Shostakovichs 13th Symphony. Setting Babi Yar, Yevtushenkos blistering denunciation of Soviet antisemitism, in the 1960s was an act of political defiance for the composer. First heard in this country in Liverpool, it is highly appropriate that it forms the conclusion and climax of the RLPOs riveting Shostakovich cycle. The power this performance accumulates at the climaxes of the second and third movement is lacerating; the mens choruses may not sound totally Russian, but Alexander Vinogradov is a superb bass soloist, and Vasily Petrenko is as good at gloomy introspection as he is at brittle confrontation.
The most intriguing items on this carefully manicured disc from Joshua Bell are new arrangements of the mighty Bach Chaconne and the jaunty Gavotte en Rondeau, adapted for strings by Julian Milone from the Mendelssohn piano accompaniment for the Chaconne and Schumanns similar underpinning for the Gavotte en Rondeau. The Gavotte makes a perfectly sweet, well-mannered miniature but the Chaconne, such a towering solo piece in itself, doesnt gain a great deal from this treatment. Bach implies all the harmonies so subtly that to have them spelled out by more strings seems heavy-handed. Theres redemption, however, in crisp and exciting readings of the Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 2 (BWV 1041 and 1042), with Bell and the players in perfect accord.
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