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Review: Sir Andrew Davis with the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sir Andrew Davis conducted a new recording of Alban Berg’s Three Orchestral Pieces with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The album contains orchestrations by Davis of the Piano Sonata and the unfinished Passacaglia and also features James Ehnes as the soloist in the Violin Concerto.

From The Telegraph

By Ivan Hewett

Come within hearing distance of the music of Alban Berg (1885-1935) and there’s an awful danger you’ll enter a vortex from which there’s no escape..The music on this new CD occasionally opens a door onto that world.

The orchestra plays wonderfully, but much credit is also due to conductor Andrew Davis. He’s known mostly as the bluff jovial conductor of bluff, jovial English music with a secret sad heart – an emotional ambiguity he understands better than anyone. This disc shows he has just as keen an insight into Berg’s world. He’s even orchestrated two early works, the Piano Sonata and the unfinished Passacaglia, both of which appear on this CD. His arrangements are masterly, probably better than the composer himself would have managed, as he had a tendency to over-orchestrate. That’s a particular problem with the third of the Three Orchestral Pieces, a nightmarish march which given the date of composition (1914-15) seems like a portrait of an entire civilisation marching to its destruction. But here it seems ideally lucid, and the increase in tension towards the final stroke of doom is perfectly calibrated.

Read the full review.