wed 26/02/2020

Bronfman, Philharmonia, Salonen, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Bronfman, Philharmonia, Salonen, Royal Festival Hall

Bronfman, Philharmonia, Salonen, Royal Festival Hall

Dazzling Finn's Bartók blends Wagnerian Romanticism and neon glitz

Esa-Pekka Salonen: Mixing LA neon and Wagnerian style in BartókClive Barda

"You have to start somewhere," remarked Debussy drily at the 1910 premiere of young Stravinsky's Firebird ballet. Even so, that was far more of a somewhere than the ultra-nationalistic Hungarian tone poem Kossuth, first major orchestral flourish of Béla Bartók, the Russian's senior by one year. In choosing it to launch Infernal Dance, the Philharmonia's 2011 celebration not of Stravinsky (as the title weirdly implies) but Bartók, principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen showed how far his main Magyar travelled to works like the hyper-percussive First Piano Concerto and the ballet-pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin, a work strident and fresh enough to serve as potential soundtrack to the so-called life of a latter-day wreck like Anna Nicole Smith.

Bartok's crazed score goes way beyond graphic-novel-style Expressionism, at least as Salonen played it

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