Tag Archives: RSNO Centre

New Music Award Winners

The prize for Best Recording of New Music in this year’s Scottish Awards, sponsored by VoxCarnyx for the first time this year, has been awarded jointly to composer David Fennessy for Letters and to the double disc document The Night With . . .Live Vol. 1.

It was the only occasion in which the judges reached a split decision, although other nominees emerged from last night’s ceremony with a share of the spoils in more than one category.

The Scottish Awards for New Music ceremony was streamed live from the RSNO Centre in Glasgow, hosted by Scottish-based mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker, who will be appearing with the Chineke! Orchestra at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

The event included a live performance of Eddie McGuire’s Legend, performed by Nordic Viola (a.k.a. the RSNO’s Katherine Wren) in memory of its dedicatee, James Durrant, teacher of generations of Scottish musicians.

The strong shortlist of nominees reflected the resilience of Scotland’s contemporary music community in very difficult times. The Nevis Ensemble, Scottish Ensemble and composer Aileen Sweeney were big winners on the night, all achieving recognition in more than one of the 13 categories.

The full list of winners of the Scottish Awards for New Music 2021 is as follows:

Good Spirits Co Award for Innovation in New Traditional Music

–      The Declaration: GRIT Orchestra 

Award for Large Scale New Work (11+ performers), sponsored by PRS for Music

–      Above the Stars: Aileen Sweeney

Mark McKergow Award for Innovation in New Jazz Music

–      Corto Alto: Liam Shortall

Award for Installation/Sound Art/Electroacoustic New Work

–      these bones, this flesh, this skin: Martin Suckling with Joan Clevillé and Genevieve Reeves

The ISM Award for New Music in Covid Times

–      Lochan Sketches: Nevis Ensemble

Award for Environmental Sustainability

–      Scottish Classical Sustainability Group: Nevis Ensemble/Scottish Ensemble/various

Award for the Recording of New Music, sponsored by VoxCarynx

–      The Night With… Live Vol. 1

–      Letters: David Fennessy

The Dorico Award for Small/Medium Scale Work, sponsored by Steinberg

–      Plastica: Edwin Hillier

The Dorico Award for Solo Work, sponsored by Steinberg.

–      Skydance: Ailie Robertson

The SMIA Award for Creative Programming

–      2020 programme: Scottish Ensemble

The RCS Award for Education/Community Project

–      StAMP: Wallace Collection/St Andrew’s University

Award for New Music in Media

–    Sayo: Luci Holland

The RCS Award for Making It Happen

–    Aileen Sweeney and Ben Eames: Ear to the Ground

The awards are created by New Music Scotland with support from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund.www.newmusicscotland.co.uk/awards2021/

RSNO Chamber: Polish Reflections

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Bracketing its season with Nicola Benedetti playing Szymanowski Violin Concertos and with Chris Gough’s piece to mark the anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz in the middle, the RSNO has kept faith with the Polksa Scotland strand it had planned for its season, regardless of the pandemic.

This concert shows why that initiative was so necessary, as participants Lena Zeliszewska and Tom Dunn explain. The Polish violinist may have helped plan this programme, but much of the music in it was as new to her as the rest of the players. In the case of the Szymanowski Sonata she performs with Graeme McNaught, that seems particularly surprising. Although the concertos were a rite of passage for herself and fellow students in Poznan, the much earlier Sonata, written shortly after the composer who would become director of Warsaw’s conservatoire was a student there, was not.

That seems especially strange when the central slow movement, marked “tranquillo et dolce”, is such an expressive exercise for the violinist, while it is the pianist that has a great many notes to play. Zeliszewska and McNaught capture the dramatic intensity of the work from the start with the zeal of musicians on a journey of discovery, while the finale hints at the violin fireworks to come in the concertos.

McNaught also partners orchestra principal Adrian Wilson in Lutoslawski’s Epitaph, a work the oboist knows intimately, having played it as a younger chap in the BBC Young Musician contest. From the later years of the Polish composer’s long career, Wilson is fascinating on its history, and again the music for the piano is often just as interesting as the soloist’s line.

The recital is bracketed by quartets, beginning with another work from a young man, the precocious Benjamin Britten’s Phantasy Quartet, teaming Wilson with Zeliszewska, Dunn, and cellist Arthur Boutillier. This too is an expressive oboe feature, but the strings-only section really stands out in this performance, with the sense that they are really pushing the soloist on – not that Wilson needs any shoving.

But it is the string quartet that ends the programme, the fourth of Grazyna Bacewicz, that is the work to relish discovering here. There is surely a more complex story to its neglect than simple sexism, Bacewicz being something of a trailblazer for women composers in Poland. Rather there is the skill with which she navigated the political situation under Stalin. While being the first female office-bearer in the state-recognised Polish Composers’ Union may have helped her adventurous music to be played at home, it may not have benefitted perceptions in the West.

The other difficulty, although actually this quartet’s glorious strength, is that it is very difficult to classify stylistically. Joined by Robin Wilson on violin, these string players give a terrific account of it, with an enveloping central Andante and boisterous, fun final Allegro giocoso.

Keith Bruce

RSNO Chamber: Cello Jewels

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

This showcase for the RSNO’s principal cello Aleksei Kiseliov – in the no less significant company of pianist Alasdair Beatson – is as superb an example of online chamber music in this time-of-the-virus as you will find anywhere. Even the slightly cheesy title that it has been given seems fitting by its end.

As Kiseliov makes clear in the first of his wonderfully lucid and well-expressed spoken additions to the film, it is a carefully considered product of this era. The two musicians had the luxury of proper rehearsal time together to prepare in the venue where they would perform, but the performance itself is presented “as live” with no edits at all. The camera-work is unfussy but brings the listener closer to the players, while the sound, captured by BBC Radio 3 for future broadcast, is very much of a live event, the microphones not too close to the instruments and the ambient acoustic very much part of the experience.

The programme itself is quite brilliantly constructed and thought through, the story it tells being one of the cello and its virtuosi and the composers who knew them and wrote for them.

Mozart must not have had a particularly close cellist associate, because there is nothing from him for the cello soloist, but Beethoven made up for that with his 12 variations on one of Papageno’s songs from The Magic Flute, Ein Madchen ober Weibchen, for cello and piano. This is the young Beethoven at his lighter, show-off, best (even on the minor-key variations), although arguably it is the piano that has the more sparkling music.

The composer’s Cello Sonata No 5, from 17 years later, is a work of challenging complexity by comparison. Its dedicatee, and Beethoven’s sometime patron, Countess Anna Marie von Erdody, must have been a very fine pianist to partner Schuppanzigh Quartet cellist Joseph Linke for its first performance. Kiseliov and Beatson are an exemplary partnership here, the skipping phrases in the central Adagio answering the piano with perfect poise, and the transition into the Allegro finale simply glorious.

Following that with Richard Strauss’s Cello Sonata in F from 1883 is inspired on many levels, even if the work was entirely new to Kiseliov. The 19-year-old Strauss is audibly still under the influence of Beethoven – as well as Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn – but there are also pre-echoes of his tone poems and the solos for cello in those orchestral works. And in the operatic “singing material” for the instrument that Kiseliov identifies in his introduction, there is a clear link with the work that opens the programme.

The Sonata was written for Strauss’s friend, the Czech cellist Hanus Wihan, then working in Munich, who was also a chum of Antonin Dvorak and dedicatee of his 1894 Cello Concerto, a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire for the instrument. The short piece sometimes played as an encore to that work, Dvorak’s Waldesruhe, brings this recital to a close. It is the ideal conclusion to the concert’s narrative, and an excellent excuse to hear it in the piano and cello arrangement, with both Beatson and Kiseliov taking the opportunity to fully explore its lyrical charm.

Keith Bruce 

Available to view via www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO / Webster / Iwabuchi

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

The relative self-confinement of orchestras during the past year has thrown up practical but unexpected opportunities. In this latest RSNO digital series concert the current benefits of primarily engaging British guest artists and/or utilising in-house talent once again makes its mark.

In charge of a programme that culminates in Brahms’ meaty Fourth Symphony is the young Angus Webster, barely into his twenties and making his RSNO debut with major international prizes and conducting engagements already under his belt. Guest soloist is none other than the RSNO’s own leader, Maya Iwabuchi, stepping out front – after 10 years in the job – to perform Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto.

Before the might of Brahms and Barber, however, an air of stillness and mystery is established by the two short works that make up Craig Armstrong’s Stac Lee. They were written as part of a Decca project five years ago, resulting in the album The Lost Songs of St Kilda, for which the label asked some of Scotland’s most prominent composers to write new works based on songs from the long-evacuated archipelago that had come to light in 2006 when the resident of an Edinburgh care home started playing then on the piano.

Armstrong’s contributions bear the mark of the successful film composer. He portrays St Kilda’s massive Stac Lee sea stack in two lights, at dawn and at dusk. In both cases the sensitivity to texture and mood is masterful, Impressionism reborn. Webster allows them to unfold with a delicate combination of timelessness and character, the latter faintly feverish with meteorological allusions to the steely indeterminacy of the island weather. 

It acts as a perfect scene-setter for the Barber concerto, a great favourite of 20th century violin repertoire largely for the lyrical breeziness and clean virtuosity that feeds through its fundamentally Romantic framework. And what a showpiece for Iwabuchi, whose dominating presence in this performance colours every moment with focussed animation and that essential fusion of lightning panache and impassioned reflection.

Webster’s unfussy support seems to recognise Iwabuchi’s towering persona – she adopts at times her normal “leader” role with gestures that say “follow me” – so it isn’t until the Brahms that we get to see what he’s really made of. The outcome there is one of generous competence engineered by a pair of steady young hands. 

His approach to this symphony, its shades of melancholy tempered by the robustness of its architecture, is largely to let it happen, which it does with Webster setting safe tempi, allowing the music, its phrases, paragraphs and chapters, to breathe at every level. There are issues with balance. In the opening tutti, for instance, the wind and brass butt through the texture with occasionally boorish inconsistency, but otherwise Webster’s gestural simplicity reaps intelligent, musical rewards. His development will be intriguing to follow.
Ken Walton

Available to view on www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO / Lewis

RSNO Centre

Although on the face of it unlikely in the current circumstances, it is conceivable that Scotland’s national orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra synchronised online presentations so that, just a week after reuniting a full orchestra in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the RSNO chose to broadcast a chamber recital that was filmed six months ago on the same weekend that the SCO fielded its full band in Perth, under the baton of Joseph Swensen.

Or it may simply have been a coincidence that the bigger outfit seemed to be trying on the clothes the chamber orchestra has been wearing so successfully at the same time as it donned its grandest gear. Either way, this recital was very much in the fashion of the bulk of the SCO’s online offerings, and arguably slightly mis-sold in the suggestion that pianist Paul Lewis is more central to the programme than he is.

Nonetheless, this is a value-for-money concert, with three substantial pieces, two of them showcasing recently appointed principal clarinet Timothy Orpen, the third with Lewis as soloist, and a splendid miniature for principal oboe Adrian Wilson.

The latter is a world premiere and part of the orchestra’s Scotch Snaps strand. Composed by Michael J Murray, one of the Ayrshire composers mentored by Sir James MacMillan’s Cumnock Tryst, it is an imagination of the interior musical world of a “silent disco” busker who is a presence in Glasgow City Centre. A highly original work, as beguiling as it is unusual, Wilson’s fluid articulation certainly seemed to suggest that is was a rewarding challenge to play. The interesting question was what had prompted the composer to make the oboe his instrument of choice?

Aaron Schorr is at the piano for the first work of the programme, Mozart’s Kegelstatt-Trio, with Tom Dunn completing the line-up. The focus is certainly on the clarinet, with the similar range of the viola in a supporting role, but the stringed instrument is buried in the sound-mix here.

The balance for Weber’s clarinet quintet is also less than ideal. Movements of this work are hugely popular clarinet party-pieces and Orpen plays beautifully, with lovely rounded tone and perfect phrasing, but the string quartet is too quiet, especially in string-led moments like the opening of the second movement Fantasia. Put that to one side, however, and the playful dynamics of the ensemble in the Menuetto, when the combination of instruments is at its most theatrical, is a delight.

Paul Lewis precedes his performance of a chamber version (two violins, viola, cello and bass) of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No12 K414 with what amounts to a caution against over-rehearsing with players of this calibre, and there is certainly a sense of the RSNO quintet – and indeed Lewis himself – being very relaxed and “at home”.

Lewis is superb, from the opening bars that sound so akin to the 40th Symphony, and particularly in the hymn-like central Andante. Although the balance is better (this piece was filmed and recorded a month after the others, with the BBC’s Andrew Trinick producing), one might still wish for a little more presence from the strings.
Keith Bruce 

Available to view via www.rsno.org.uk


RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Let us hope that the RSNO is re-energised by the move into the larger space of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the opportunity to perform with larger forces in its recently-announced new digital season, because there is a slight sense of fatigue in this final concert of the current one.

That is no fault of guest soloist Nicky Spence, who brings expressive commitment and an enthusiastic musicality to Britten’s Les Illuminations. These nine Rimbaud settings may have been written for, and dedicated to, a soprano, Sophie Wyss, but that was surely as much because of the restrictions of the time (1940) and the emotions behind both the verse and Britten’s music sound more powerful in the tenor voice. The specific dedication of the seventh of them, the bold and assertive Being Beauteous, to Peter Pears, meant that the composer himself was being neither coy nor particularly careful.

The Scottish Ensemble made a go-to recording of the work with Toby Spence (no relation) and there is a coherence to that group’s string sound – with all the percussive effects and imitation of other instruments in this score – that is often missing here. The current necessity for social distancing might be some explanation for that, except that string players in general, and RSNO ones in particular, have noted some benefit in sitting at individual desks.

The Britten is preceded by George Walker’s roughly contemporary Lyric for Strings. While there is no argument that the compositions of the first African American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize are ripe for rediscovery, his reputation might be better enhanced by tackling meatier fare than this early imitation of Barber’s Adagio, lovely though it is.

Thomas Sondergard’s Beethoven Five, which concluded the programme, is neither fish nor fowl – but then a hybrid of historically-informed practice and contemporary brio is what most orchestras and conductors aim for with the work these days. So we have natural trumpets and modern horns, and string playing that is brisk but not quite crisp enough in the first movement.

The conductor may be keeping his powder dry, but there is also an odd imbalance in the sound – uncharacteristic of engineer Phil Hobbs – which continues in the Andante, with the wind soloists, although all on fine form, rather too far up in the mix.

When more muscle comes into the performance in the Finale, that difficulty disappears, as does the lack of rhythmic rigour. The sprint to the tape, at least, whets the appetite for the orchestra’s return in April.

Keith Bruce

RSNO / Gardner / Lewis

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Imagine this RSNO digital concert as a priceless painting encased in a tasteful picture frame that enhances, but never overwhelms, the masterpiece within. The latter is Edvard Grieg’s timelessly popular Piano Concerto in A minor; the outer casement consists of the two orchestral suites formed from the incidental music to Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. What’s not to like?

Throw in the presence of British conductor Edward Gardner, whose current position as chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic gives him a direct link to the composer (Grieg filled that post from 1880-82) and a feel for the Norwegian spirit that courses through this music. And Paul Lewis, of course, a pianist with an intoxicating ability to temper rigorous intellectual capacity with alluring simplicity and affection. The entire combination, along with an RSNO in the suavest of shape, is as near perfection as you’d hope.

Neatly filmed and produced, and with unpretentiously informative spoken links from tubist John Whitener, violist Katherine Wren, and Gardner and Lewis themselves, this is also a medium which the RSNO is now well on top of. We’d all like to be back in a live situation, but there’s no denying the new skills that have been learnt through desperate measures, slickly on display here.

Gardner’s shaping of the two suites is masterly, poetically restrained, but engrained with a crystalline folkish dynamic that brings every fresh detail and sighing nuance to the fore. He opens with Peer Gynt Suite No 2, arrestingly dramatic to begin with, but then a subsequent cocktail of vying charms, from the heavily pastiched Arabian Dance (its opening flute duo weirdly reminiscent of Ronnie Hazelhurst’s theme tune to 1970s TV sitcom Some Mother’s Do Have Em!), to the sassy Peer Gynt’s Homecoming and calming simplicity of Solveig’s Song.

The more popular numbers – Morning Mood, Ase’s Death, Anitra’s Dance and In the Hall of the Mountain King – follow the concerto in Suite No 1, again lovingly shaped, the emphasis on richness of tone and unmannered suppleness. The shimmer of muted strings in Ase’s Death is sublime.

At the heart of this programme, though, is the clean-cut, effortless precision of Lewis’ concerto performance. He stops well short of proclaiming total detachment, allowing Grieg’s immortal themes to flow naturally from his disciplined fingers, avoiding temptation to sentimentalise, and knitting together the entire edifice – which too often invites misplaced overindulgence – in a riveting display of explosive control. 

Gardner supports without intrusion, but always with something to add to the mix, a counter-emphasis here, a loving whisper there. It’s that time of the year when the RSNO traditionally offers a St Valentine’s concert. Be sure and make a date with this one!
Ken Walton

Available to view via www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO / Lowe / Cargill

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

A “technical issue” resulted in Friday’s planned release of the RSNO’s first 2021 digital concert being delayed until Saturday. Given this glitch offered a version that chopped the final bars off Dvorak’s New World Symphony, the decision to delay was wise. There’s nothing worse than experiencing the same fate as the long distance runner whose legs buckle a few metres short of the finish line.

Be assured, the rectified version takes us all the way, with a rousing end to a performance in which conductor James Lowe and the orchestra finally feel at home with each other and a mutually conducive spark is lit. 

Lowe was brought in to replace Ryan Bancroft and a programme originally intended to feature violinist Midori in the world premiere on Glanert’s Violin Concerto No 2. In its place comes the popular Dvorak symphony and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with mezzo soprano Karen Cargill.

The opening work remains unchanged, Errollyn Wallen’s surging Mighty River, written in 2007 to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. Like the political momentum gathering pace then for a lengthy ongoing liberation campaign, Wallen’s metaphor of choice is the unstoppable power of water, its vitality, the unceasing journey that a mighty river undertakes in search of the open sea.

Familiar tunes make their presence felt: Amazing Grace feeds through the opening bars like a shared opening prayer; the spiritual Deep River more immersed within the later fabric of increasingly frenetic textures. The language encompasses echoes of Copland’s fresh-faced dissonances, powering minimalism à la Reich or Adams, besides Wallen’s own lyrical, occasionally mystical fingerprints. It is a compendium of 20th/21st century Classical Americana underpinned by incessant, pulsating energy. 

This performance doesn’t quite get to grips with all that. It’s more matter-of-fact than edge-of-the-seat, more routine than gripping, especially where the vital underpinning rhythmic motor seems more content to chunter along than switch to overdrive.

Cargill’s presence in the five songs that make up Wagner’s gorgeous Mathilde Wesendonck settings provide a welcome instant transformation. The rich sonority of her lower range channels their emotional depth from the offset, Cargill brilliantly fractious in Stehe Still – a touch of the Wagnerian nasties – and glowingly ecstatic in Im Treibhaus, spine-chillingly intense in Der Engel and aptly dreamy in Traume.

Hans Werner Henze’s orchestration poses its own challenges, the highly exposed solo lines and curious colour mixes dependent on super-refined management. While Lowe’s direction provides inoffensive, efficient support for Cargill, it struggles to find the vital essence of Henze’s weird and wonderful intentions. They are more convincing than they sometimes appear here.

No lack of conviction when it comes to the Dvorak, despite niggling aspects of (recording?) balance that occasionally vulgarise the opening Allegro molto. Thereafter, there’s the leisurely Largo, sprightly Scherzo and wholesomely conclusive Allegro con fuoco to seal the deal on a programme that takes its time to fully settle.
Ken Walton

Available to view on www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO / Meister / Dego : Beethoven 7

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

The musicians of the RSNO do a nice line in practical observations in their pieces to camera introducing the music of this digital season concert. It is not so much about demystifying their work as making the audience at home aware of some of the challenges they face. So Chris Hart’s brief guide to playing a natural trumpet and Adrian Wilson’s warning of the trap Beethoven set for unwary oboe players are incidental joys of the last of the series in this troubled calendar year.

For all that the format is well-worn, there are also practical considerations behind a concert programme that runs overture/concerto/symphony, and this is a classic example of its success.

The symphony is Beethoven’s Seventh, the favourite of many, and conducted here, without a score, by Cornelius Meister in the manner of a man with very individual opinions on how it should go. If you only heard the stormy Finale, full of forceful dynamics and taken at an impressive speed, the chances are you would not guess that the first movement is bright and light, but far from as brisk as it is often played these days. And the swift segue from the first straight into the pulse of the Allegretto would not lead anyone to predict the contemplative pause Meister takes between the other movements.

Although the presence of four double basses hardly makes for a huge symphony orchestra, this is as large a band as any of us has seen recently, with the socially-distanced RSNO players filling every corner of the available space in the orchestra’s excellent rehearsal room. It has a superb acoustic, and the recorded sound is full of detail and ensemble richness, with Linn’s Phil Hobbs and the BBC’s Andrew Trinick sharing production duties.

The mature Beethoven is preceded by two distinct phases in the short life of Mozart. His final Violin Concerto, No.5, is known as “The Turkish” for the supposed ethnic influence on the last movement, so preceding it with the Overture to his (later) Turkish-set opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, makes musical sense. However,  after giving the programme that suitably energetic opening, with Hobbs at the controls, the conductor took a break.

Italian-American violinist Francesca Dego will be recording the Mozart Concertos for Chandos with the RSNO and Sir Roger Norrington, and that team performed the Fourth in February of last year. Here, however, Dego shared direction of the orchestra with leader Sharon Roffman, herself no stranger to working without a conductor, and the resulting creative balance (with Trinick on the desk) is quite magical.

The orchestra makes a full statement of its own sound before the soloist’s first entry, but it is only after appreciating the sophistication, lightness of touch, clarity and precision of Dego’s first movement cadenza that it is possible to appreciate how those qualities stand for the whole of this performance. Even better, both musicians clearly appreciate the slightly sleazy playfulness in much of the music that follows; those up-and-down chromatic phrases are rarely so teasingly phrased while appearing so elegant.

Keith Bruce

RSNO / Widmann

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

He’s a conductor, a composer and a virtuoso clarinettist, so Jörg Widmann came as the complete package to an RSNO digital programme that combined Mozart’s much-loved Clarinet Concerto, Mendelssohn’s robust Reformation Symphony and Widmann’s own capricious Fantasie for solo clarinet.

It also meant that Widmann’s charismatic personality fed through every morsel of this filmed concert, not least that side of him – obvious from his affable pre-performance chat – that is undogmatic, free-spirited and spontaneously musical. If that meant pushing the letter of the score to some extremes in the Mozart and Mendelssohn, eschewing absolute adherence to tempi in favour of greater expressive freedom, it was done with such self-belief that it invariably triumphed.

What that required, in the Mozart, was an RSNO capable of engineering its own coordinated support, as Widmann’s direction was largely gestural and minimal. For the most part, the response was intuitive and beautifully symbiotic, the band instantly reactive to the teasing elasticity which he exercised in many of the work’s unforgettable themes.

Nor was it surprising to witness the smiling Mozartian brio of Widmann’s precision playing, warmed by the gritty tonal personality of his instrument, echoed in an orchestral ensemble fully signed up to his articulate, clear-minded vision. Where ensemble glitches occurred they were minor, the uppermost strings occasionally appearing thin and scurrying, but these were incidental in a thoroughly engaging, thought-provoking performance.

Widmann had the stage to himself in his own Fantasie, a madcap virtuoso concert piece conceived as a one-man musical reimagining of Commedia dell’Arte. Multiple “characters” interact with surreal, often cartoon-like wit, the manic agility of the clarinet writing – even a manufactured 4-part chord – central to its savage cut and thrust. A mesmerising performance.

Nothing quite brings you back down to earth like a Mendelssohn symphony, especially the “Reformation”, written in 1830 to celebrate the tercentenary of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession, complete with the gravitational “mighty fortress” presence of Martin Luther’s chorale tune ”Ein feste Burg” as the mainstay of its final movement.

As with the Mozart, but now solely conducting the orchestra, Widmann’s approach was hungry and personal. That same resistance to rigidity opened up intriguing expressive possibilities: slow, punctuating breaths that gave added weight to new phrases; a persuasive energy that fuelled the unstinting momentum; shudders in tempo that sailed close to the wind in the Andante, but never so much as to knock it off course; and solid, brazen tuttis that ripened fully in the final moments.
Ken Walton

Image: Jörg Widmann