Unfamiliar Bloch at the Cadogan Hall
esterday evening's concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cadogan Hall demonstrated that a woman conductor can handle a long, complex and demanding work just as well as a man. Dalia Atlas conducted the orchestra in the Overture to Rosamunde by Schubert, the Mendelssohn E minor Violin Concerto and Ernest Bloch's Symphony in C sharp minor.
The soloist in the Mendelssohn was Hagai Shaham: although sometimes the playing was a little too muscular for this work it was lyrical: for my taste the final movement was a little too fast (the usual complaint) but it was well articulated and made a more convincing case for this sort of speed than other performances I have heard.
Ernest Bloch is best known for his Violin Concerto and the Cello Rhapsody Schelomo: he also composed an opera of Macbeth. His Symphony in C sharp minor is an early work started in 1903 when he was 23, and premiered in 1908. It is ambitious, running to almost an hour and using a huge orchestra. However it is over-dramatic and over-orchestrated, with extremely complex multiple lines in the orchestration: something like a cross between Mahler and Schoenberg in Pelleas and Melisande mode (though Bloch had never heard any Mahler at this stage and so he can't be claimed as an influence): Mahler also used a huge orchestra but rarely at full blast, rather producing a very wide range of tone colours from mixtures of instruments. Here Bloch tended to go for a heavy orchestration almost throughout. The romantic theme of the second movement actually worked best when it briefly appeared played by a grouping of solo instruments: but the tendency, particularly in the final movement, was to heavy brass, reinforced by tuba, in best Wagnerian manner, together with an overwhelming complexity. By the time of his later works Bloch had learned some restraint.
Even so, the work has many fine points and is worth hearing - Dalia Atlas is plainly a champion of it - and it's good to be able to hear unusual works in concert rather than the usual handful of popular classics.
The Symphony is available on a BIS CD
Posted: Wed - June 27, 2007 at 10:19 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM