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Spectator review: ‘thrillingly alive’

Spectator review: ‘thrillingly alive’

Richard Bratby writes in The Spectator:

‘As for the sensational Proms debut of John Wilson’s new orchestra, Sinfonia of London, I keep thinking of the Pixar cartoon Ratatouille – the bit where the monstrous critic weeps as his heart cracks and he remembers why he cared so much in the first place. This was something like that: an orchestra so thrillingly alive with the sheer glory of it all that hearing them play felt like being a teenager in love. Like Simon Rattle, Wilson adores every detail and inner voice of the music he conducts. But unlike Rattle, he never lets it obstruct the bigger picture. Wilson’s other orchestra (the one that carries his name) is rightly famous for its virtuosity and rhythmic verve. With Sinfonia of London, he applies that same energy on a symphonic scale.

This was the Sinfonia’s first public appearance (its recordings have already won awards), and Wilson had chosen a programme with a broadly Viennese theme. Francesca Chiejina sang Berg’s Seven Early Songs in a voice of molten gold while the orchestra floated and glimmered around her. Ravel’s La Valse began on the edge of audibility, and developed a momentum so cataclysmic that it made The Rite of Spring seem fluffy. And then Wilson conducted Korngold’s Symphony in F sharp – a huge postwar outpouring of anguish and loss, so ferociously difficult to perform that until this Prom I don’t think I’d ever heard a completely successful live interpretation (not that there are many opportunities to judge). It’s impossible to say if this was the single greatest performance that Korngold’s symphony has ever received, but it certainly felt like it.’