As this concert confirmed, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s self-proclaimed commitment to 20th and 21st Century music is extraordinarily strong.
The UK premiere of Salonen’s Wing on Wing (2004) was enormously well executed, although the solo sopranos Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi were a little apprehensive at the start.
Fellow Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste brought out the wind and water metaphors very well, and the buildup in energy throughout the work, particularly in section II, was immense.
Section III consisted of a heart-wrenching oboe solo, played to perfection. Another highlight was section IV, which featured the sopranos very impressive upper register and breath control, and the percussionists threw themselves into the work with aplomb. The ending of the work was also very impressive, with enough sound in the orchestra to give the conclusion of Schoenbergs Gurrelieder a run for its money. In all, it was a very impressive debut indeed.
Shostakovichs Eighth Symphony is a work that surely needs no introduction. The intense string opening, featuring the melancholic cello vibrato and depressing violas, made a striking start to the symphony. The dark and gloomy violin melody was tragic, sacred and painful, reminiscent of the spoils of war, especially when the violins played in unison. Having been dominated by strings thus far, the winds and brass did not fail to impress when it was time for their entry.