ROBERT ANDERSON listens to music by Poul Ruders, Lutoslawski and Sibelius in London's Royal Albert Hall
The Prom concert on 10 August 2001 was less well attended than it should
have been, presumably because the programme contained only one 'lollipop'
(if that is the word for Sibelius 2). Promenaders were in their usual strength
and must have stared goggle-eyed at the staggering array of percussion at
the front of the platform. Poul Ruders has called his piece commissioned
by the BBC and Danish National Radio SO by the Latin title 'Studium'. That
might mean anything, and perhaps it did. It is a concerto for two percussionists,
who start and end studiously enough but rise to a crash-bang climax that
had one longing to leap on the stage and join in. It was the UK première,
with Evelyn Glennie and Gert Mortensen as athletic as they were virtuoso
in hurtling between their bits of battery. The quiet bass drum and Aboriginal
didjeridu that launch the piece gave no idea of what was to come [listen -- opening of 'Studium']. In the background were
clucking woodwind and an agonised cantus firmus on the trombones
(I wondered if they had got hold of the Danish national anthem, but was
told later they hadn't). Evelyn Glennie, as she wove round the platform,
was more serpent than Eve, tempting, seducing, swaying with the rhythms.
Then came the climactic moment when she threw herself at the bass drum,
raised on high exactly in my line of vision. I could only think of Falstaff
and wish the whole Albert Hall were my drum as I hammered at my seat in
sympathy [listen -- climax of 'Studium']. Like
the best forms of study, this was full of surprises. The percussionists
ended each with a pair of cymbals in their hands, lightly brushed together.
Slowly they approached each other, brushing quieter and quieter, till they
sank down in silence behind the rostrum to tumultuous applause. The aural
effect of Studium was maybe eclipsed by the visual. The conductor
Thomas Dausgaard turned his pages, and the members of the BBC Philharmonic
did likewise. I can only assume they were in some sort of agreement throughout.
I cannot wait to watch it again.
Copyright © 16 August 2001
Robert Anderson, London, UK
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