WITH musical budgets under pressure, joint commissions are becoming commonplace. And so Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Cello Concerto saw the light of day, this time receiving its UK premiere in Liverpool.
The piece was written in 2010 specifically for cellist Paul Watkins who was soloist at the latest performance. Cast in an unusual five movements, the centre point had to be the intensely personal fourth movement in which the orchestra plays no part: rather the cello has an introspective conversation with a solo horn.
While they begin as uncomfortable bedfellows, it grows beautifully into an impassioned plea. There was a great deal of passion, though the horn did sound a little uncomfortable at times.
The rest of the work is notable for its lack of anything special. It’s perfectly approachable and there are special moments – namely a sublime, waltz-like movement for soloist and strings in the second movement.
The first movement is angular, though melody is always at the forefront. The striking interplay between orchestra sections made for an interesting opening.
There’s an unnerving, stuttering start to the third movement with much humorous interplay between a scurrying solo part and pizzicato strings and vibraphone. But it’s the finale which catches the audience unawares. It’s a burst of joy, here enjoyed to the full by the RLPO under Vasily Petrenko.
It’s easy to see why Stalin and his “cultured” Soviet chums found Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony hard to swallow. It’s a massive canvas and, despite feeling disjoined, is a highly organised, intensely thematically developed work.
The two huge outer movements were great statements, the first satanic at times, occasionally sweet but always played for maximum theatrical effect by Petrenko in a blistering performance.
There was massive energy, particularly in the frantic fugue.
The much more gentle second movement turned into a controlled crescendo, paving the way for a cataclysmic finale.
How different a piece from the gentle opening work – the Arvo Pärt Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. Again, a highly controlled performance, an almost imperceptible opening working up to a powerful climax.
Glyn Mon Hughes