City Halls, Glasgow
The novelty has assuredly now worn off, and there was a profound sense of loss in listening to conductor Richard Farnes produce a wonderful sound from the BBC Scottish for what was a delicious programme of music. Radio 3 is a wonderful asset, but this was a concert that it would have been a real delight to have witnessed first hand.
Instead it happened that that soloist Elena Urioste’s beautifully expressive account of the moving slow movement of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto unfolded to the soundless images of John Ford’s The Searchers on my television, and specifically the discovery of the carnage at the homestead that sends John Wayne off in dogged pursuit.
I’ll remember this performance for more than that, however. It began with a masterclass in balance between the violin and the orchestra, with firmness of purpose from the conductor and relaxed command of the work by Urioste. A former student of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where Barber himself studied, the piece is clearly in her blood. When it came to the fireworks and drama of the Finale, the main regret, of course, was in not being able to see her dispatch it with such flourish.
There was plenty drama in the concert opener as well, although Farnes took a very deliberate pace through the movements of the suite Sibelius made of his music for a theatrical production of Pelleas et Melisande. Surely it was not the lack of bodies in the City Hall that made the music sound so spacious in this conductor’s hands; his respect for the suite’s structure made the very most of the picturesque narrative.
Farnes describes Franz Berwald as “a Swedish Mendelssohn”, and his Symphony No. 3 in C, sub-titled “Singuliere”, written in 1845, must surely have had something of a retro flavour when it was eventually premiered in Stockholm in 1905, 37 years after his death and in the same year as the Sibelius suite was first performed. It has found more favour in the last half century, however, with Neeme Jarvi, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Roy Goodman and Thomas Dausgaard all making recordings of it.
The three movements seem to begin in an earlier era than the time of composition, and the arc of this reading made a compelling argument for a composer whose major works had a troubled history in his lifetime, and are still heard only occasionally in the UK today.
Image: Elena Urioste ©Alessandra Tinozzi