LSO/Roth review – vivid, violent and virtuosic premieres | Classical music


François-Xavier Roth conducted the latest concert in the London Symphony Orchestra’s Futures series. With the ballast in his programme provided by accounts of two of Richard Strauss’s symphonic poems – a racy performance of Till Eulenspiegel and an edgy, almost histrionic one of Death and Transfiguration, both delivered with full-spectrum brilliance by the LSO – there were three premieres, two of them from composers who had previously been part of the orchestra’s Panufnik scheme for encouraging young talent.

Finnish composer Joel Järventausta was a member of the scheme just three years ago. His Sunfall, inspired by a vivid 19th-century painting of a sunset, and by Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, seemed an exceptionally assured piece of orchestral writing. It’s a fiercely concentrated, 10-minute tone poem, in which violent outbursts of brass alternate with more consoling instrumental lines, and uneasy passages of stasis.

Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) with Francois-Xavier Roth.
Assured soloist: Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) with Francois-Xavier Roth. Photograph: Mark Allan

Francisco Coll is a Panufnik alumnus from the scheme’s early days. The British premiere of his 2019 violin concerto, co-commissioned by the LSO, had been delayed by Covid. Written for Patricia Kopatchinskaja and already available on disc, it seemed as brilliantly original played live by her as it does on record. In outline it’s very much a three-movement concerto in the virtuoso tradition, complete with cadenza and perfectly tailored to Kopatchinskaja’s extravagant talents, but it’s also a showcase for Coll’s own freewheeling orchestral virtuosity, his tangled, teeming invention, ear for vivid sonorities, and sly references to earlier music.

The third new work was also an LSO commission. But even with Håken Hardenberger as the typically assured soloist, Helen Grime’s trumpet concerto Night-Sky-Blue, was disappointingly limited in its solo writing, which seemed to fixate on just a couple of ideas. The orchestral writing was far more imaginative and the ear was often drawn away from the solo trumpet to what was going on elsewhere – not exactly ideal in a concerto.

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