Saturday, 14 April 2018
Haitink tops the BBC Music Magazine Awards
Semyon Bychkov's Vienna Philharmonic recording of Franz Schmidt's Second Symphony was the one I hoped the public would choose from our choice of three orchestral discs, if only to encourage record companies to take risks in big orchestral repertoire; and then either that or Sean Shibe's English guitar music CD, most persuasive playing I've ever heard on that instrument, as CD of the Year. But I'm still very pleased that Haitink's fourth Mahler Three on disc with the gorgeous-toned Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra was the ultimate choice - especially since news about it just preceded my visit to Lucerne to hear the 89-year-old BH - nb not 'Sir Bernard' nor 'Maestro Haitink', he rejects both - giving his eighth year of conducting masterclasses.
I was only able to attend the last of three six-hour days, but I still count it as one of the key experiences of my life to set alongside Abbado's Mahler in Lucerne, and I try to get to grips with it on The Arts Desk. Above: Haitink with perhaps the most assured of the eight young conductors on the course, Vitali Alekseenok, photographed (like Jansons below) by Peter Fischli.
That has enriched the piece I've written on Haitink to coincide with the Awards issue of BBCMM due out shortly. So, too, did the fact that I also caught the Bavarians in Lucerne with Mariss Jansons, and talked to the young Swiss co-principal cellist of the orchestra, Lionel Cottet, about the Haitink Mahler 3 just before the performance (there he is among the players on the left in the ensuing Beethoven Mass in C, a first for me in concert, and it flowed beautifully with a fine choir and four excellent soloists). I also spent 15 engaging minutes on the phone with leader/concertmaster Radoslaw Szulc, and wasn't able to use as much of what he told me in the short final piece as I'd have liked - his eulogy, for instance, to Martin Engerer, superlative soloist in the Hummel Trumpet Concerto at the first of the two Lucerne concerts - pictured with Jansons below - and the one-of-a-kind posthorn he used (not a flugelhorn) in the Mahler.
Must say that though only one of my personal favourites won its chosen category - Bram van Sambeek's Aho and Fagerlund works for bassoon and orchestra (van Sambeek's little film with phrases of the Fagerlund was a delight, while legendary Robert von Bahr of BIS was on hand to praise the Lahti Symphony Orchestra) - I was delighted with very nearly all the choices. Of the trophy-receivers below, Bertrand Chamayou, pictured in the front below (all Awards ceremony photos by Johnny Millar),
gave a live performance of Debussy's 'Clair de Lune, Fenella Humphreys chose an odd pair of pieces and most promising newcomer Julien Brocal played some of Mompou's variations on Chopin's A major Prelude. Can't say they sounded to me like much more than slightly ungainly improvisations on a piece whose charm is its simplicity, but I do love the disc, pushing for it wholeheartedly at the jury session, and I had a fascinating conversation with Julien after the ceremony.
Like the best of his generation (he's just turned 30), he is supportive of his colleagues, speaking very enthusiastically about Roman Rabinovich when I told him of hearing RR play three historic keyboards at Hatchlands, and a very thoughtful as well as friendly fellow. His brand new disc of Ravel and rather more enigmatic Mompou offers a rainbow of pianistic colours and subtleties.
The ceremony at my favourite London venue, Kings Place, was a model of its kind, just the right length. BBCMM Editor Olly Condy set it up engagingly, and regular James Naughtie emanated wry naturalness as usual. There were essential speeches from Lionel Meunier of Vox Luminis, winning the Best Choral award for the beautifully-presented Luther tribute, and the witty-in-English manager of the Bavarian RSO Nikolaus Pont. Nicholas Daniel and Harriet Harman - pictured up top with Olly and BR Klassik co-founder Stefan Piendl - made a special plea for music education in the UK (watch this space). Non-irritant good humour came from Anneke Rice and Vikki Stone, pictured below with Olly and Chamayou.
It become apparent that we seemed to favour Frenchmen, something we certainly weren't aware of at the time of the judging, but they all deserved their success, and if the whole thing has the intended effect of encouraging the classical recording industry to carry on its chosen path of the rich and rare, of doing what seems artistically worthwhile at whatever cost rather than simply trying to make money (nice if that happens too), then it's done its bit.