Prom 34: BBCPhil/Ollikainen Review – Thorvaldsdottir’s sonic study is impressive and captivating | Balls 2022


Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music deals with mass and density, how different planes of sound collide and combine, and how complex textures evolve over time. These qualities make the orchestra the obvious medium for her work, and it is in large part due to her sequence of remarkably effective orchestral scores that the Icelandic-born composer has become one of the most distinctive voices in music. European today.

Only eight weeks ago the CBSO presented Thorvaldsdottir’s magnificent Catamorphosis in the UK, and the BBC Philharmonic’s Prom under the direction of Eva Ollikainen began with the world premiere of another hugely impressive sonic study, ARCHORA, co-commissioned by the BBC with five other orchestras. Again, this is a single, ever-changing 20-minute duration of music. Launched to sinister pedal notes from the heavy brass and propelled by pounding percussion, the textures sometimes thin out to a single sustained string pitch, distant descending glissandos or pitchless, breathy woodwind attacks.

The immediacy of the music was certainly more gripping than anything in Thorvaldsdottir’s program note, which spoke of the “halo” of primordial energy and the idea of ​​”an omnipresent parallel realm” that inspired it. Easier to detect in the background of ARCHORA is the influence of Sibelius – a brief passage of wintry string swirls could have come directly from Tapiola – and Ollikainen then ended his concert with Sibelius’s Second Symphony, in a performance of bold gestures and striking colours, played with great liveliness by the BBC Philharmonic.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto had provided the filler for this musical sandwich, but curiously it seemed to be on too small a scale to hold together between two such boldly characterized and very different works. The soloist was Kian Soltani, very accomplished, to be sure, but too well-bred and distinguished, playing almost as if it were impolite to release the deep well of emotion which underlies the whole concerto and which, in the most beautiful interpretations , gives it overwhelming power.

Aired on BBC Four on August 14 and available on BBC Sounds until October 10. The BBC Proms continue until September 10.


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