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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.

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Copyright © 16 August 2001 Robert Anderson, London, UK





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