BBSO 2017-2018 season opening concert
Very interesting programme in the opening night for the BBC Symphony Orchestra with his chief conductor Sakari Oramo and violinist Alina Pogostkina. The core of it was Sibelius’ 5th symphony, part of the All Sibelius Symphonies theme planned for this season. Why opening the series with the 5th and not doing in order? Maybe to match the next day 6th and 7th performed by Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen? That would be incredible complicity between London orchestras :)
But the concert opened with Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. It felt it to me like Oramo did it as an obliged piece, like a fill-in for the Sibelius night. From the technical point of view it was perfect, with all the orchestra parts very well controlled on the most compromised moments. It shined on the more outgoing sections but failed on the lyricism. There was no magic, no soul and no apollonian elegance flying from the music. Everything was delivered with bureaucratic perfection.
The extremely beautiful Alban Berg violin concerto suffered from different reasons. I had a deja-vu from last Oramo conduction Saint-Saëns piano concerto in the last Proms: he was doing his thing with his orchestra, mostly in autopilot letting the soloist to catch up. That could the reason why Pogostkina looked a little bit nervous and always paying attention to the score (probably full of annotation about what Oramo was going to do). Here we had the opposite than in the Strauss. The most lyric parts were delivered very well, even with Pogostkina more focused on delivery a technically perfect speech. Probably the inherent beauty of the score and her sound made it. Major problem came from the orchestra shading the sometimes weak violin sound on the louder parts.
And finally the Sibelius. This was serious stuff. And Oramo perfectly knew it. No autopilot. He totally took risks and it worked pretty well. Making an extra effort to adjust some of the musical effects to the Barbican sonority and waiting back for them. Here we found the passion from the conductor and the orchestra enjoying it. Some minor technical problems (what was wrong with the double-basses?) didn’t tangle the overall result at all.
I enjoyed the concert but had the feeling that it could have been more rounded if the same passion and attention to details were used on the first part too.