Prom 45: BBCSO/Oliver Knussen/Leila Josefowicz - Royal Albert Hall, 17 August 2007
Schoenberg Five Orchestral Pieces Op.16
Oliver Knussen Violin Concerto
Hans Werner Henze Sebastian im Traum Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
You'd probably rather look at a photo of tonight's winsome soloist Leila Josefowicz than the ursine charms of conductor Oliver Knussen but sadly she moved too quickly to get a decent shot in. Anyway, I can report that she wore a stunning loose white spaghetti strapped dress with a blue ombré bodice and a wide brownish sash tight around her waist.
She gave a poised and delicate reading of the appealing Knussen concerto, which allows the soloist barely a second's breathing space. From mid-arena, her instrument had a surprisingly small sound, though this is not apparent on the Radio 3 recording (available for 1 week), where the sound balance emphasises front of stage.
Before this, Knussen gave a typically meticulous and detailed reading of the Schoenberg, all the subtle changes of balance and texture carefully drawn out.
Henze's Sebastian im Traum was a UK premiere. After a sparsely-textured first section where tiny slivers of ideas pop up then slip gently away, it explodes into an intense core before returning once again to a more fragmentary style and an inconclusive ending. Knussen's modest and functional conducting style, all clean movement, kept it on an even keel. It was very well received by the sizeable (and much younger than usual) audience, prompting Knussen to raise the score in the air for some applause of its own.
The Stravinsky was taken at a blistering gallop, and not entirely free of errors, but it was a thrilling performance, making up in excitement for what it lacked in textbook precision. This too got plenty of applause, including a round for the score Knussen raised in his hand. Once again though, I feel the Radio 3 recording is unbalanced in favour of the front of stage.