BBC SSO / Carneiro
City Halls, Glasgow
Stravinsky’s Petrushka seemed the inevitable endpoint to a BBC SSO afternoon concert that had explored, en route, the defiant energy of Anna Clyne’s pulverising «rewind« and the iridescent intensity of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto.
It was a journey that sizzled under the charismatic, needle-sharp direction of Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro. From her initial ebullient stage entrance, and a first downbeat fearsome enough to set the audience, never mind the players, on the edge of their seats, she had us completely under her spell.
Clyne’s opening work – a reworking of her original 2005 orchestra and tape version for Kitty McNamee’s Hysterica Dance Company – pulled no punches. Vigorous, uncompromisingly repetitive, and with glittering, intoxicating textures to offset the dry brutality of its punctuating chords, it was met with a blistering performance equal to its intent. The SSO was on red hot form.
They were joined by the South Korean pianist, Yeol Eum Son, for Salonen’s 2007 three-movement Concerto. Written originally for the Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman, it is consequently robust, physically intense and fiercely virtuosic. Eum Son had no problems making it her own, matching its muscular demands with a gracefulness that was mostly effective in the numerous conversations the soloist engages in with single instruments.
Salonen, best known as a leading conductor, is no slouch when it comes to composition. Within a personal stye that is as soulful as it is viciously dissonant, he seamlessly ingests influences as varied as Bartok, Adams, Gershwin and Stravinsky in this work, which itself lends to an elusive circumspection – the constant flow of new ideas seemingly arising out of fresh air – that this performance highlighted.
Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947 version) came as an inevitable resolution to these two foregoing works. And once again, Carneiro’s electric presence inspired a top-notch response. Incisive and impulsive from the outset, it was a performance heightened by kaleidoscopic sensitivities, rhythmic precision and an unrelenting sense of unanimity from an orchestra wholly reactive to this highly impressive conductor.