Sir Simon Rattle reinvents the natural world through sound
The London Symphony Orchestra’s regular Half Six Fix is a quick hit rather than a full classic cocktail: one hour; a symphony; no messing around.
With a spoken introduction and a deliberately relaxed atmosphere, it’s a no-obligation way to hear a great repertoire with time for dinner afterwards.
But what you’re missing out on with this all-killer-no-filler approach are the chance encounters, the pieces you don’t yet know you love.
This week the audience heard Beethoven Symphony No.6 in F major, Op 68 known as the Pastoral Symphony, but what they missed was the chemistry of hearing it immediately after that of Czech composer Ondřej Adámek Where are you? in the full version of the same concert a few nights later.
Like any good mixologist, Sir Simon Rattle combines his ingredients with care, bringing out different notes with different combinations and collisions.
Beethoven’s celebration of nature and creation, culminating in the radiant certainty of a hymn-like finale, lands differently after questions and doubts from Adámek’s orchestral song cycle.
Where Beethoven imitates nature – the birds are calling; a gurgling stream; a village band playing inexperienced – Adámek pursues new sounds.
A whole orchestra breathes and gasps in a work that seeks God and the moment of creation (we start with the Our Father and we go from the prayers of Teresa of Avila to the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism), their quest led here by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena – the original soloist of the work.
Kozena was as much an actress as a singer in a work that dislocates words from their meaning, shatters them into syllabic chunks, and brings them together in collages of sounds and textures.
Kozena’s range – from throaty vocal percussions to frantic song-like hoots – was wide, but surpassed by the LSO that served St. Therese’s ecstasy with a burst of harp sweat, catching the bite of a blade of knife in a snare drum and applause.
After teaching us to listen differently, Sir Simon then took us back to familiar ground with the Beethoven.
All the usual melodic cues were there – the opening lyrical theme, the frenzied dances – but we no longer just heard them horizontally.
The texture was suddenly on top. It was not a performance nature, serving as a clever sound pastiche; it was to create it fresh, to reinvent a sound world.