Classical reviews: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London; Calidore String Quartet, Cadogan Hall, London

Calidore String Quartet
The Times

The BBC Proms — the 124th Henry Wood season — opened at the Royal Albert Hall with an all-British programme by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo, culminating in the audiovisual spectacle of Anna Meredith’s specially commissioned Five Telegrams. Or rather it pre-opened with the late-Thursday-evening world premiere of that work in a realisation outside the hall, an event I missed.

Here the highly elaborate lighting plot — the work is a collaboration with 59 Productions — was trained on the exterior of the celebrated building. For the Friday concert, it enveloped the amphitheatre, and the organ in particular, and with a lambent magnificence certainly needing to be seen to be believed. How such colours, ever-changing, could at one point align so precisely with the construction of that immense instrument astonished me. At other times the organ ran with flame. And the thought that it was all done with computers took no jot of the magic away.

The first of the Cadogan Hall lunchtimes, featuring the (Californian) Calidore String Quartet, brought the First, Second and Third Essays by the New York-based Caroline Shaw. The second two, Echo and Ruby, were premieres, and seemed to add to the first, Nimrod (no Elgarian link), the requirements for a well integrated traditional quartet. Shaw’s tonal idiom is eminently approachable, her inventiveness was manifest, her command of the medium super-fluent. Completing the pleasant programme was an invigorating account of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, for which the Calidores were joined by a player, Javier Perianes, with an exuberance ideal for the work.
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