Vital and creative music-making

BPO Strings/Kuusisto/Gilchrist, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 17

Not an empty seat in the house for Friday evening’s concert, and not suprisingly, with the strings of the Britten-Pears Orchestra directed from the violin by the charismatic Finnish fiddler Pekka Kuusisto.

It began with a performance of the Bach E Major violin concerto with Kuusisto as soloist; a performance that defies easy categorisation, neither mainstream or period, but entirely individual, and alive with rhythmic vitality and spontaneous musicality.

One of the greatest string works of the twentieth century came next; Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, a work commissioned by the 1953 Edinburgh Festival to celebrate the tercentenary of Corelli’s birth. It is a complex and demanding work, even more so, one imagines, when directed from the violin, yet Kuuisto achieved a stunning performance from the BPO strings, both technically and in its fidelity to every nuance of this magical score.

Finally, Britten’s Les Illuminations with tenor James Gilchrist as soloist. Les Illuminations(1939) belongs to that first great period of Britten’s early maturity, its high point Peter Grimes, works which have a creativity and appeal he may have equalled, but never surpassed. Gilchrist was superb, both vocally and dramatically, while Kuusito drew vivid and responsive playing from the BPO.

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It’s a while since I heard a concert, not just of such a high technical standard, but which also contained such vital and creative music making .

Frank Cliff

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