Changes with benefits

NATSUKO YASHIMOTO, UMBERTO CELRICI & DANIEL DE BORAH

Musica Viva

Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

Friday June 11

Natsuko Yoshimoto

Here was yet another needs-must event where the originally scheduled ensemble was not able to get to Brisbane for the Musica Viva event scheduled last Friday night. We were to have heard a piano trio comprising violinist Emily Sun, French horn performer Nicholas Fleury, and pianist Amir Farid performing the Brahms Trio Op. 49, a new violin sonata by Gordon Kerry, and Ernst Naumann’s arrangement of Mozart’s E flat Major Horn Quintet which would have been more than interesting because I’ve only seen Naumann’s work on the Andante and Allegro of this last-named construct for horn, violin, two violas and cello; the transcribed opening Allegro remains a closed book.

And so it will stay until this recital is broadcast from the Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm on June 27. As a sudden substitute, the organization put together another trio – a perfectly rounded chamber group – and we heard three works, but all of them duos. Violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto, well versed in chamber music from her years with the Australian String Quartet, is currently co-concertmaster of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the Ensemble Q chamber group. Keyboard virtuoso and jack-of-all-formats Daniel de Borah has recently made his base in Brisbane as Head of Chamber Music at the Queensland Conservatorium. Until I took a closer look, I thought cellist Umberto Clerici occupied the lead principal desk with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but he decamped from that body last year; his chamber music credentials are also substantial, not least for his appearances in Selby & Friends recitals over recent years.

And what was on offer? Yoshimoto and de Borah exerted themselves on Mozart’s two-movement E minor Violin Sonata K. 304; Yoshimoto and Clerici combined for Kodaly’s sweeping Duet Op. 7; finally, we could relish an engrossing reading of Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 Op. 58. As is often the practice these days, all three works were performed consecutively – no interval – which experience made for a particularly focused evening’s listening, lasting a bit over an hour but leaving you quite content with the experience. Of course, this sense of satiety might have had much to do with the quality of the program itself, but equally as relevant was the performance standard, which was exceptionally high.

Mozart’s E minor sonata enjoyed a forward-looking handling, the violin overpowered by de Borah at times because he had his lid open on the big stick. Alongside this unforced volume benefit, the pianist treated us to some Beethoven-like dynamic power and abrupt changes of output, as well as a tendency to highlight entries by means of slight pauses – the one-note ritenuto, in particular. But Yoshimoto held her own, reminding us of her trademark strength of line, so welcome in the otherwise all-male personnel of the ASQ during her time with that body. Still, both players mined a vein of nostalgia close to regret with the simple but eloquently placed coda at bar 194, once again revealing Mozart’s unparalleled melodic skill with the simplest of materials.

De Borah found a calm lyricism in the opening statement of the second movement, giving the melody lots of space to make its melancholy point. Yoshimoto mirrored this placidity with an excellent repeat of the line, intensely caressed with a careful application of articulative shadings. In fact, both musicians enjoyed a companionable partnership throughout this movement, a cross between a minuet and a landler in their hands. Yet the chief memory is of Yoshimoto’s melting entry in the major-key trio at bar 102: a repeated-note phrase of Schubertian simplicity and assurance, just as touching in its second-half repetition at bar 121. You realized at the work’s completion that the interpretation moved across a wide range of parameters, the most telling of them being a determined ardour that moved past the score’s surface impression of a light sonatina.

I’ve come late to the Kodaly work, as was also the case with the Sonata for Solo Cello, its companion piece, which I first heard in Melba Hall from a young Liwei Qin. The Hungarian master’s early Duet is something of a vast canon, packed with imitations and intersections, and these executants entered fearlessly into its broad statements and oscillating modes of attack. Clerici made a tensile creature of his sinking solo across the 12/13 bars before Number 7 in the Universal Edition score, but you could point to just as powerful Yoshimoto exposures, and the Duet is nothing if not a dialogue of equals, striking in its few bursts of unison at one or two octaves’ distance and finally in the final 9 bars of rallentando where two dissimilar voices find resolution in a D Major third.

Kodaly’s second movement Adagio enjoyed a free-wheeling, ruminative handling which offered a contrast to the disciplined outbursts over the preceding pages. Clerici in particular sounded in impromptu mode across the opening gambits of changing bar lengths, triplets and passing 4:3 hiccups, all seasoned by tension-generating dynamic directions. Then came a scrubbing tremolo that brought grinding dissonances into play, both players hurtling against each other at instrumental compass extremes. At the heart of these pages is a linear balance, both sharing in the sharp-edged melodic arcs and in the driving, intrusive underpinning. The searing forward movement reaches a highpoint at the allargando octave unison descent 3 bars before Number 4, then sinks away to what sounds like an almost improvised ending, Clerici well-exercised by harmonics and flautando demands.

Bartok looms large over the finale Maestoso-Presto, although the slightly older composer would probably not have written the mirror phrases (and accompaniment) that dominate the Presto opening and the let’s-all-settle-down 2/2 time-signature. Yoshimoto showed a skittishness, even a willfulness in her less frenetic moments, as at that Poco meno mosso where the key changes to A Major/F sharp minor; further along, she displayed a cauterising burn in her lowest register, as at 4 bars after Number 7 where Kodaly directs that the melody be played on the G string. But, as a sign of the emotional continuity of this reading, both performers exercised the same charity with each other at either end of the score, especially through the handling of the recurrent folk-style melody that brings to mind the opening to Bartok’s Contrasts at the final Meno mosso before the exhilarating rush home and a superbly co-ordinated flurry from both musicians in the last Piu presto gallop.

I’m not sure that all of the Musica Viva patrons enjoyed this work. Three people coughed themselves out of the hall at various points, an elderly couple sought refuge in the consonance of the foyer during the second movement, and a pair of girls tip-toed out in mutual support at the start of the finale’s bracing call to arms. Which struck me as odd, given that this Duet dates from 1914 and is a striking, powerful construct that should not alarm people inured to the Bartok string quartets, works that Musica Viva has sponsored since its inception in this country.

No such problems arose during the Mendelssohn sonata which revealed another instance of inter-player fluency. De Borah kept his action-rich part under control, more so than many other pianists who have considered an over-supply of notes to represent an interpretative ascendancy; in this version, the rush of arpeggios that support the cello from Letter E to Letter F in my old Peters edition were sublimated with tact, and the pianist held back the potential force of the composer’s repeated chords from the first bar onward. Indeed, if you wanted an instance of how to accompany a Romantic era chamber work, you could hardly do better than watch this artist at work. Further, both musicians showed an easy adeptness at holding our attention, as well as toying with the smallest of rallentandi to indulge their individualistic touches.

As the whimsical Allegretto scherzando bobbed past, you could see that a good deal of attention was being exercised on giving full weight to each line; not just the cello-piano partnership, but in the piano chording as well. Clerici’s frequent pizzicato passages carried successfully to my seat near the back of the theatre, while each player made a lush meal of the two interludes in D Major and B Major, keeping the main episode dynamically lean and formally neat. As for the Bach-influenced Adagio, Clerici generated an ardent line for his pseudo-recitative interludes, a rich energy that intensified with de Borah’s chorale recapitulation from the Tempo I point.

Mendelssohn asks for a sudden attack on his Molto allegro e vivace, and got a solid one this night. Here was the composer in full flight, the voice we love to hear, loaded with fetching forays and mellifluous modulations, the whole orderly Victorian maelstrom raising lots of froth but not a black storm cloud in sight. Just as well Clerici and de Borah made use of the inbuilt ritardandi – and inserted a few of their own – to work against the sense of a seamless and tedious run of patterns and repetitions. But then, the pianist made sophisticated sense of those many passages where his right hand comes in off the beat or holds a tied note against the prevailing metre.

As with the Kodaly, so here: the performance proved to be exhilarating without self-advertisement or any emphasis on the music’s difficulty of negotiation. It made an optimistic conclusion to a night that bore all the signs of a make-do exercise, but I believe that we – those of us who showed up! – were more than happy with the replacement musicians and their works. But then, it makes a huge difference if you are faced with players who know what they’re about and are agreed on their shared path. In this time of multiple crises and perturbing interruptions, music-making of this calibre is to be cherished.

Cramped and cramping

CAMERATA RE-MASTERED

Camerata Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday June 5

Orava Quartet

A few days before this concert took place, the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall came on board to televise it live. A very kind offer but an odd one – after all, how many Victorian (or for that matter, extra-Brisbane) music-lovers customarily leave their homes and travel to QPAC for a Camerata night? Naturally, the orchestra’s viewing population would (should) have been expanded, especially by those (like myself) who were tempted to stay home rather than go to the hassle of hour-long train trips, Queensland Government identification codes, the slowest-moving foyer crowds in the nation, and an irrationally long program given in one hit.

But there we were, the faithful followers of live performance, giving Brendan Joyce’s young players large dollops of encouragement as they laboured through a nine-part program of works that ranged from the sublime and challenging to the trivial and instantly forgettable. Joyce and his organizing team set the bar impossibly high for themselves by starting their operations with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge Op. 133. That’s the sort of bravura that Richard Tognetti and his Australian Chamber Orchestra can handle, and even then with no subs in the ranks.; but it was a very demanding ask for the Camerata first violins, even allowing for the confidence of Joyce and his 2IC Daniel Kowalik. Some of those top B flats in the first fugue were both thin (understandable) and not universally assured in pitch; I know that the top line’s exposure is total in the most difficult stretches of this segment but those slight deviations were hard to ignore.

Camerata’s violas made an excellent showing throughout the multiple changes in this still-taxing score and the single double bass was ever-welcome in this arrangement whenever she entered to reinforce the cello line. But the ensemble often had their hands full negotiating pitch and rhythm, especially in those pages where the counterpoint is hard-worked,, and so the final effect was of musicians surmounting a struggle rather than outlining an object of interpretation.

Every time I hear Turina’s La oracion del torero, I find myself asking what kind of prayer did the composer have in mind. Even considering the usual vision of the matador genuflecting before a small statue of the Madonna and Child, you have to question the thought processes that led the composer to this lush outpouring of local colour, several salons away from a death-in-the-afternoon scenario. But setting one’s Hispano-Catholic perceptions aside, you can simply luxuriate in the piece’s fabric, and this was an excellent reading of Turina’s small jewel. The thirds and sixths exuded lushness beyond the dreams of Aztec-sacking avarice, while the players enjoyed more comfort in these pages, a welcome refuge from Beethoven’s intransigence, the ensemble showing to better advantage in the Spanish composer’s high tessitura writing towards the end in that Mantovani-suggestive Lento.

John Rotar, a highly active young Queensland composer, enjoyed hearing two of his pieces on this program; the first a Brisbane premiere of his Beyond the Front Door, referencing the emotional and physical release that comes at the end of a pandemic lockdown – in which aim, the work enjoyed a definite success in narrative terms. Strong on 2nds and 7ths at the start, the score proved active, as if the physical activity of breaking through state-imposed domestic barriers held both pleasure and pain. Not that Rotar maintained this nervous activity throughout, pausing for an attractively swelling melodic swathe from the violas that was taken over by each section. Indeed, the composition built to a full-bodied peroration until a conclusion that melded strong bass chords under the violins returning to the opening nervous mobility. This is a distinctive creative voice, informed by a sure hand at orchestration and an attractive harmonic vocabulary, albeit a diatonic one laced with brusqueness.

Next came another vault into another country with Steve Reich’s Duet for two solo violins, four violas, three cellos and a double-bass. Joyce and his principal second violin, Jonny Ng, gave an appropriately driving account of the upper lines’ canons, playing in-phase sequences that didn’t outstay their welcome – which is not always the case with he American composer’s creations. Still, Reich was kind enough not to have his supporting lines simply play sustained notes throughout but gave them some rhythmic variety, even if fitful in nature.

Continuing with the American flavour, Joyce and his colleagues followed this happy Reich flourish with Barber’s Adagio for Strings: one of the cornerstones of American music and a reliable aesthetic resource in time of travail – President Kennedy’s assassination, the Twin Towers catastrophe, Meghan’s interview with Oprah. Here was a laudable reading, without the elongated bathos that too many ensembles inflict on these spare pages; rather, simply letting the interweaving arches make their own points as the composer intended with precise dynamic markings but no demands for rallentandi, ritenuti, or supernumerary general pauses. Not that the Camerata avoided imposing some extraneous hiatus points, but the performance proved respectably uncluttered and truthful.

Before the final work – Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for strings – Joyce & Co. presented three Australian works of differing characters, all by Queensland writers. First, Puppet Play in Java by Betty Beath dates from 2009 and is a mildly colourful soundscape based on F Major but pentatonic for all of its duration, as far as I could tell. The senior composer keeps her texture light, the atmosphere consistent, demands on its interpreters not that great, and the duration just long enough. I don’t know Indonesia at all, its music very superficially, and Beath’s vision is of a much milder disposition than expected. And that’s fair enough, even if the results tend towards blandness.

Little Corellas: Allora 1987 by Cameron Patrick suggests a phenomenon from the composer’s youth when he played at the home of the original Camerata founder, Elizabeth Morgan. A flock of corellas in flight stayed in the composer’s mind from those years, revisited in this work from recent months and, with a craftsman’s touch, he has created a mini-tone poem, beginning with whirring suggestions of aerial action and displaying a suggestive freedom in its interplay of lines. This language is also, at base, traditional with enough dissonance to remove any banality yet, after its completion, it reminded me of a finely achieved documentary film score; considering the writer’s background and career, that should come as no surprise to anyone.

Rotar’s second offering – Plains Baked Golden in the Morning Light (on Winton) – was also composed earlier this year and turned out to be the most substantial of this Brisbane trilogy. It read, to my mind, like a series of scenes, dominated in its first part by solos for Joyce and principal cellist Karol Kowalik, the latter’s melodic line punctuated by percussive string work. But this work presented as more conscious than its companions of contemporary string production techniques, through some saltando-like passages, free-wheeling arpeggio patterns, individual high glissandi, grinding dissonances et al. It brought to mind, Sculthorpe’s Sun Music, particularly No. IV, in certain textures, specifically the suggestion of birdsong. Towards the end, the cellos revisited their broad melody with lashings of vibrato and the work concluded with more suggestions of Sculthorpe at his slow-moving best and – perhaps because of the cello’s prominence – an intimation of Schelomo, and even Bruch’s Kol Nidre. Nevertheless, this construct impressed for its ambitious scale and the honesty of its emotional scenario, no matter that I kept on hearing older voices flashing out from Rotar’s multi-coloured fabric.

I’ve got little to report about the Elgar work, the evening’s most satisfying achievement for its pliant attack and security of ensemble. Of course, it makes a big difference if you take the four powerful Orava musicians out of the Camerata ensemble to fulfil the duties of the composer’s solo quartet; the orchestral segments sounded underdone in their absence. But Joyce had ensured that the magnificent characteristic segments – like the opening strophe and its repetition at Rehearsal Number 5, the nobilmente downward striding at Number 12, the resolving Come prima and its melting two-bar quartet breaks, and the dynamic energy of the work’s final 14 bars – all came across with precision and eloquence of timbre.

I made a habit over the years of avoiding encores, if possible; it wasn’t on Saturday, so I sat through the group’s reading of Mancini’s The Pink Panther title theme. Yes, it’s a bit of fun and the group snapped fingers and whistled neatly enough, but the defining small glissandi at phrases’ endings doesn’t transfer well from sax to violin. And, even to this tolerant palate, the exercise seemed self-consciously flippant. Needless to say, the Camerata faithful loved it.

Of more importance was the length of this concert which ran without interval for over 90 minutes. I can’t answer for other backsides but mine was numb to a painful level at the end, the ache rising to a peak during the Mancini. It’s great to give value for money but I could have cut this program by three numbers and their absence would not have detracted much from the players’ demonstrations of skill.

A crown of thorns between the roses

AUSTRALIAN WORLD ORCHESTRA

Melbourne Digital Concert Hall

City Recital Hall, Angel Place

Thursday June 3

Alexander Briger

Any attempt to restore a sense of the normal is welcome, particularly a mammoth exercise like the Australian World Orchestra’s re-appearance. In the good old days, conductor Alexander Briger could draw on resources from all over the world, inviting back home many willing expatriate musicians to take part in a small number of concerts played only in Sydney and Melbourne over a couple of nights, picking up players from across the nation to flesh out the desks. Also, Briger and his board could attract top-notch conductors who were up to the exhausting trip from Europe or America.

The last time I can recall coming across the AWO was in 2017 when the seasoned professionals combined with some musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music to work through Messiaen’s Turangalila-symphonie under Simone Young. A large-frame score, this was representative of the organization’s ambition and, if the results on that night in Melbourne proved more satisfying for the attempt than the achievement, you could hardly say that the enterprise was simply marking time, just giving its actual and potential patrons a continuation of that diet which the state symphony orchestras provide in full, year after year.

With the pandemic frustrating any hopes of visitors, Briger put together a smaller-than-usual corps and tailored an entertainment-experience that followed a conservative path for two-thirds of the night. To open, the players worked through Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, and they closed with Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C. Where an old-style program would have inserted a concerto, the AWO gave the premiere of Paul Deans Symphony, commissioned by Briger for this orchestra and which turned out to be a stern sermon on the subject of despoliation, if not destruction, with only fleeting signs of light. It could be taken as a commentary on the climate catastrophe or it might be a grim perspective on humanity’s lack of regard for oncoming disaster. Whatever the case, the work had to be tailored for the resources of the Schumann score, even though Briger feels that the work needs a broader gamut of orchestral possibilities and weight.

Without a list provided of the players and their provenance, the telecast occasionally turned into a game of Spot the Musician as you suddenly realised that some of these AWO performers were very familiar faces, while others featured as half-remembrances of things past. For example, the timpanist who made his mark quickly through the Coriolan introduction – single strokes of penetrating power in bars 3, 7, 1 ,12 and 13 – seemed to me to come from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but a check of the organization’s home page disproved that impression. In fact, this timpani prominence began a more significant process: accustoming yourself to the Angel Place space’s acoustic properties which sounded pretty dry through the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall system, benevolently brought into place when the AWO’s scheduled Melbourne visit turned out to be impossible.

Briger led a brisk reading of the overture which held some unexpected points of interest. For instance, the conductor let the cellos and basses set the running between bars 118 and 140, so that the upper strings and woodwind, carrying the main motive burden, were cast into second place. But the orchestra had no difficulty handling this score, most of the explosive chords that punctuate its progress coming off with minimal scatter-gun effect, the texture pierced by some excellent, if brief, solo exposures, like the second bassoon’s chain of minims at bar 234. The last bars also proved effective and moving as Beethoven prefigures his hero’s doom with that dwindling cello line: the only sign of motion across this bleak conclusion to a work packed with fierce tragedy.

Briger directed an eloquent interpretation of the Schumann work which gave all three choirs multiple opportunities to demonstrate their eloquence in ensemble work. For instance, you had to be moved by the splendidly voiced chorale from the woodwind at bar 15, which lasts for an all-too-brief four bars before the rest of the orchestra returns, but which startled for its unforced vigour and timbral purity. Then, the burst into action at Schumann’s (eventual) Allegro ma non troppo showed the players’ communal verve while the benefit of having first-class musicians shone out in the seamless jockeying between both sets of violins in the movement’s central development, and again in the later stage of the recapitulation pages with that requirement for syncopated block woodwind chords, which to my ear came across with thrilling precision. In fact, the only problem I had with this first movement came with the rallentando in its last seven bars which sounded to me like the conclusion to the Sibelius E flat Symphony, except that there the pauses are inbuilt.

But, at several times during the performance, I was faced with enough detail discrepancies to generate the belief that Briger’s score was more up-to-musicological-date than my venerable Breitkopf & Hartel.

The strings distinguished themselves yet again at the onset of the Scherzo second movement because of their pliant address in a skittering set of pages. You got so comfortable with their brilliant and continuous edge that their block dialogue with the woodwind in Schumann’s first Trio impressed as a dynamic coup de theatre. While the first maintained its crispness, the second Trio provided the perfect contrast through its (eventual) lush texture when the groups coalesce at Rehearsal Letter M in my score, about 17 measures before the composer starts harking back to his principal theme. Another unexpected move came with an accelerando at the start of the Coda which, when you think about it, makes complete sense because its effect is to refresh some familiar material.

With the plangent Adagio espressivo, Briger and his forces spaced themselves across its soundscape, using plenty of rubato as well as following the brief crescendo-diminuendo directions with tact alongside none-too-disruptive sforzandi. This mobility came within a whisker of self-satire only once, but the style of attack gave considerable breadth to a movement that can sound like whining, probably not helped by the application at odd moments of a slight portamento in the violins. On the other hand, the woodwind continued along their blameless path with some brilliantly flavoured duets above the violins’ high chromatic descending trills just before Letter O.

Not everybody kept precisely on the beat in the Allegro molto vivace finale when Schumann introduces crotchet triplets across the bar, although the middle strings made a rapid recovery. But for a music that is optimistic and inherently brassy, the orchestra en masse responded with sterling energy through pages that recalled the seemingly endless exercises and patterns of the last movement to Schubert’s 9th. The whole march moved deftly to a finely judged set of soft brass calls leading into a L’istesso tempo conclusion of high excitement, carried off with a panache that made you think that this confected orchestra might actually be capable of achieving a world-class standard of performance.

Preceding the Schumann symphony, the AWO presented its youthful branch, an orchestra of young players with a few senior players scattered around the strings and prominent in the brass. Under conductor Patrick Brennan, the group played the Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 6. From the start, the body’s violins sounded hesitant, nowhere near as loud as they should be leading up to the vivo in bar 13. But then, this group had troubles with the frequent changes of pace across this piece. A reasonable performance, but an odd interpolation, no matter how high-minded its intentions.

Dean’s Symphony, in its bald title, brought to mind Webern’s Op. 21. That’s where any correspondences stop. The Australian work is substantial, passing through four movements and giving full vent and playing-time to its matter. Dean opens with some woodwind scattered around the auditorium (the film crew had access to only one – a flautist up in the gallery) playing bird calls above sustained and soft string chords: a pastoral opening, then, to bring to mind our world at its quiescent best. An Allegro opened out with chugging basses and the tone changed to an acerbic sound, strong on dissonances although the language seemed to me about as complex as that of Tippett. Any listener could discern specific patterns and an elliptical melodic framework for the violins, but the movement is mainly aggressive, strong on texture if not on development. Also, at this stage, I think I saw David Berlin from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in there with the cellos.

Dean’s second movement began for me with the discovery of Wilma Smith, one-time MSO concertmaster, in the first violin ranks. Not that she had much to do at the start here, bars that were populated by melancholy-sounding woodwind weaving a threnody by themselves. I was distracted again on detecting Justin Williams at the front desk of the violas. Continuing the air of gloom, if not despair, Dean employs muted trumpets and a trombone trio with pizzicati double bass notes to construct yet another landscape of hopelessness. At which stage I believe I found Kirsty McCahon in the bass quartet. In any case, the strings continued with the threnody (and I may be mistaken, but it might have been the MSO’s former regular Michelle Wood leading the cellos) leading to an increase in intensity and breadth of output that led to a large-scale highpoint, reminiscent of Mahler.

Despite its dour temperament, this movement held some momentary pleasures, like an intervallic interplay passage for horns and a sombre oboe solo cutting through the low-pitched textures before the other woodwind joined in a slowly weaving counterpoint. At which point I think I found the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Julian Thompson in the cellos. A faster pace (I think) turned a surging violin escalation, punctuated by dramatic timpani strokes, to yet another climactic point, as dissonant and perturbing as its predecessor. Then, a de-escalation until the piccolo returned us to a mid-way emotional point with a bird-imitating solo above a layer of sustained string chords, reminiscent of the symphony’s opening pages.

The following scherzo gave hefty work to the low strings, with motivic interplay the name of the game. This movement quickly showed itself to be of a piece with its predecessors although the harmonic bite sounded more insistent, the dissonances more pronounced and clearly etched. Snatches of melody were instantly squashed, the metre was relaxed from regularity and then came an intense return to the bitterness of the movement’s start, as though we had been following a classic ternary form pattern.

The finale opened with whispering basses and cellos under low trombone chords and rumbling timpani. The composer was not going to provide a ray of redeeming light in this atmosphere of foreboding. As we had heard several times before, patterns built to a highpoint that died out before oboe and clarinet rise out of the subterranean murmur. Another large-scale outburst emerged from strings and timpani; it wove back down to silence apart from a sustained viola note from which clarinet and piccolo emerged in a duet. The strings took back their primacy, moving to a loud shudder that cut off to leave the basses muttering. But then, the work moved to a rhetorical, almost Straussian declaration, timpani cutting across the maelstrom of brass and string chords, the work coming to the time-honoured big finish but not one that left you elated; rather, if truth be told, grimly appreciative of a score that impresses in the end for its devotion to its task and the intransigence of its statements.

As a composite, this Symphony made both a firm statement of scouring intention from the composer as well as a remarkable and testing piece for the willing participants. Mind you, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to hear it again; perhaps it’s better kept for a return visit when there’s more light glowing on our various horizons