TITLE: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
VENUE: Huddersfield Town HallBy Chris Robins
“FOR reasons beyond our control”, said Kirklees Orchestral Concerts organiser Dougie Scarfe in a genial apology to a good-natured ripple of giggles among the audience, “the concert programmes have not been delivered”.
This circumstance – unheard of at these concerts in living memory – was the only upset in a flawless evening!
New Yorker Jonathan Schiffman came to attention in 2006 when he replaced Kurt Masur as conductor for the European première of a Wolfgang Rihm work.
The clarity, precision and forward motion he needed for such contemporary music were also applied – with restrained and fluid gestures – to his BBC Philharmonic debut at which each work resolved musically but left profound questions about the human condition hanging in the air.
Mozart’s so-called ‘Little G Minor’ Symphony set a mood of nervous energy and remorseful reflection ready for Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.
Few violinists can play it well – Alexandra Soumm can. This petite, 22-year-old Russian member of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme and Vienna Conservatoire graduate had the required virtuosity and physical stamina. She also had the uncompromising tone to sustain the tension mercilessly through Sibelius’ inexorable rhythms and long driving phrases.
She brought something dark and aggressive to the piece in a brilliant performance.
Schiffman soft-pedalled the aggression in Brahms’ Fourth Symphony and emphasised its angst-ridden acceptance of the human condition.
The world-class BBC Philharmonic, with seriously good intonation, sparkling woodwind and enamel-bright string tone resting on beefy resonance, almost overwhelmed the hall’s beautiful but ever limited acoustic range.