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We round up some of the press reviews from last week’s concert with Semyon Bychkov…
To Colin Anderson in Classical Source, the whole thing was like a romance novel, occasionally veering into more Jackie Collins territory.
“They met for the first time a few days ago, a concert at The Anvil in Basingstoke, this same programme. The Royal Festival Hall re-match confirmed that Semyon Bychkov and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have hit it off…Beethoven 7 enjoyed a shapely and vibrant slow introduction, Bychkov’s incisive technique, always to the point but graphic when needed, had things in place immediately and he was scrupulous with making transitions seamless. All repeats were observed and tempos were forward-moving without ever crossing that unholy divide into rushed and forced.”
“If the Beethoven was the most-satisfying of the two performances, then the Schubert was the more interesting and revealing. The OAE now opened up a paint-box of delights, right from the start with mellifluous-sounding horns that exuded a real ‘authentic’ tang….”
All in all Colin seemed to be a fan. Neil fisher of The Times wasn’t quite so convinced, but he does get kudos for comparing us to an Aston Martin.
“Let’s say you are loaned, for one afternoon, a vintage car – an E-type Jaguar or James Bond’s Aston Martin. Do you take it roaring out on to the open road, or do you handle it with kid gloves, maybe taking it for a gentle turn around the block, and hoping that when you return it’s still in its mint condition?”
What would you do? Neil never really says what he’d do, but there’s more to the metaphor.
“The good news is that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment suffered no damage at the hands of Semyon Bychkov’s maiden voyage with the period-instrument orchestra (this was the second in a pair of identical concerts). The bad news is that Bychkov was so tentative with the OAE that even by the end of this concert it was as if he’d never really found their fifth gear”.
Ivan Hewitt in The Telegraph however, thought Semyon drove like a dream. “Playing in the biggest hall in town, to a capacity crowd, with a big-league conductor on the podium: what more eloquent evidence could there be that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, once a niche ensemble performing for enthusiasts of “period performance”, has gone mainstream? It was a heartening to see it getting the large crowds it deserves….The high point of the performance for me was the Allegretto, that stern, ghostly processional with its iron-grey opening chord. At the beginning, Bychkov made a tiny separation between the phrases of the melody. Each one had to find its own energy, as if unaware of the others. It was only as the melody gathered force through each variation that Bychkov and the orchestra joined the phrases together. It made a beautiful image of a human person gaining enlightenment, and feeling power flood through all its limbs. One rarely hears music infused with such a striking interpretative idea.”