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Proms 2009: Prom 9 – Finzi \ Elgar \ Leon McCawley \ BBC Philharmonic

July 24, 2009

Listen to an Audio Boo thing

The BBC Philharmonic joined forces with Vassily Sinaisky for a programme of nearly all English music from composers Moeran, Finzi and Elgar.

I say nearly all because although Irish born Moeran did spend some of his life writing in England, the symphony played during Prom 9 was half and half recollections of Ireland and East Norfolk.

As a kid I spent a long time flitting between Norfolk and Suffolk – we lived on the border – and for a long time I found little of interest in either county. It was only when I listened to Benjamin Britten’s music I slowly came around to thinking that East Suffolk was best. Moeran’s music (listen to the second movement for his take on East Norfolk) did little to change that opinion.

The real surprise was the Finzi played by former Young Musician participant Leon McCawley. Watching him on TV proved what an amazing and totally reliable ability the chap has in delivering a clear and robust tone from the Steinway on the stage. Finzi’s writing (in my opinion at least) shows some sympapthy for the soloist who is required to deliver a massive cadenza right at the beginning of the work instead of the end (where you’d normally hear it in a standard concerto). Was Finzi getting the worst stuff out of the way first or (as I suspect Leon McCawley might have thought) deliberately frightening the soloist before he walked on to stage. Either way McCawley rose to the challenge.

The BBC Phil delivered a fantastic performance of Elgar’s Symphony No.2, something I hadn’t heard in it’s entirety and am as I write downloading off iTunes. Pundit Tom Service was right in his fairly forceful assertion during the interval that the Symphony is Elgar proper. Forget the populist stuff, this is the Elgar you need to listen to.

Watch it on BBC iPlayer or listen to it on BBC Radio 3 – first half including Leon McCawley (second half – Elgar).

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