Royal Festival Hall, London/Barbican, London????/???
The Discovery of Heaven, Julian Anderson's striking new work for the London Philharmonic, takes its title from Harry Mulisch's 1992 novel. The vast sweep of that book, juxtaposing the mythic and timeless with the contemporary and the everyday, was a starting point for Anderson's abstract, 22-minute piece, in which rapt, slowly moving textures vie for dominance with music that is rowdy and discontinuous.
It is a gripping journey in three movements, conducted superbly by Ryan Wigglesworth. An opening haze of glassy, spectral chords and fidgety woodwind is followed by tumbling ideas that jostle for prominence; these overflow into the last section, which reaches a kind of accommodation. The other ingredient in the piece, Anderson has revealed, is Japanese gagaku, and the wide-spaced scoring sometimes evokes that sound world. The premiere opened an LPO programme devoted to English music, in which Mark Elder conducted Delius's Sea Drift, with the London Philharmonic Choir and Roderick Williams as the exemplary baritone soloist, and Elgar's First.
The previous evening at the Barbican, Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony's all-English affair had prefaced Tippett's A Child of Our Time with another premiere, the first London performance of Hugh Wood's Second Violin Concerto, in which Anthony Marwood was the soloist. Written by a composer more stylistically self-conscious than Wood (who will be 80 in June), the concerto might be labelled as neo-Romantic. Its expressively charged solo lines and tense thematic working, not to mention some of the musical material itself, often seem like a homage to Berg. But effectively it's a relatively traditional concerto, accomplished but rather predictable.
• The BBC Symphony Orchestra concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 on 8 April.
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