BBC Symphony Orchestra, Snape

TONY COOPER The 55th Aldeburgh Festival ended with a rare visit to Snape Maltings by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.


The 55th Aldeburgh Festival ended on Sunday afternoon with a rare visit to Snape Maltings by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

It was conducted by Oliver Knussen, a former artistic director of the festival and a person very much in celebratory mood as the concert, programmed by him, was to mark his 50th birthday.

The programme consisted of two works by the birthday boy himself set against two composers with whom he is closely associated – Stravinsky and Elliott Carter. And it was musical fireworks that got the concert off to a cracking good start with a spirited performance of Stravinsky's Fireworks – a dazzling four-minute orchestral showpiece.

This was followed by Knussen's Flourish with Fireworks, a work he modelled on the general character and proportions of the Stravinsky piece, which he so much admired.

Carter's Cello Concerto followed, written in 2000 in the composer's 92nd year and performed by New Yorker Fred Sherry. It was receiving its European premiere. The work had huge orchestral flourishes and was very melodic with the final movement lyrical and tranquil.

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The second offering by Knussen was Whitman Settings, which brought to the platform the distinguished soprano Rosemary Hardy, whose breathtaking performance of four settings by the celebrated American poet Walt Whitman were sung with deep passion and intensity. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was the final work in this very rich and colourful programme.

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