Aldeburgh's haunting finale

CBSO / Gardner, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 29This year's festival concluded with a visit from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, who has made such a favourable impression in his first year at English National Opera.

CBSO / Gardner, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 29

This year's festival concluded with a visit from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, who has made such a favourable impression in his first year at English National Opera.

The concert began in the open spaces Gyorgy Kurtag's 'Gravestone for Stephan' - a haunting memorial to the husband of Marianne Stein, one of Kurtag's formative intellectual influences. The quiet musing of the solo guitar over a low accompaniment had its appeal as did the brilliantly executed final horn diminuendo with its momentary vision of singularity.

Britten's Cello Symphony received a relatively rare performance, with Jean-Guihem Queyras as the eloquent soloist. Despite some striking passages - the opening brass interjections, the weird intensity of the scherzo and the trumpet-accompanied cadenza of the slow movement - the work is not an easy one to grasp or enjoy. Soloist, orchestra and conductor all gave of their best; the high pizzicato passage in the first movement was particularly memorable and the fleet-footed ghostliness of the scherzo was perfectly captured.


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It was a joy to wallow in the energetic rhythms and biting wind and brass at the opening of Walton's First Symphony, composed in the mid 1930's. Not only is the work dominated by his tempestuous affair with Imma Von Doernberg (the markings con malizia and con melancholia suggest that it was a far from easy ride) but it also seems to reflect the troubled politics of the time. The orchestra gave everything they had, superbly marshalled and led by the dynamic Gardner.

The scherzo was equally exhilarating with a superbly judged dramatic pause before the final flourish. Some genuine, if brief, peace of mind was found in the slow movement before the rising fanfares and vigorous fugue of the finale carried the afternoon and the festival to a worthy conclusion.

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Gareth Jones

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