At last, after a long artistic drought it's good to hear Mark-Anthony Turnage back on form with Hammered Out, premiered at BBC Prom 54. Nice and punchy, like a prize fighter strutting his stuff. Good omens for Turnage's opera Anna Nicole, next year at the Royal Opera House. Maybe Anna Nicole's desperate post-Diana Dors persona (Marilyn's too classy) fits Turnage's thing for kitsch interpreted vaguely ironic. Hammered Out is nothing scary, and quite entertaining. If the opera's more of the same it will be a hit especially with audiences that don't usually do opera. Much as I had fun because I don't normally listen to pop.
Pity, though, for Anna Nicole Smith was a disaster waiting to happen. Tacky as she was, her life was tragic, She exploited others and was exploited in return, but she's still making money. There's plenty of sociological comment in her story, but it isn't like Turnage to penetrate psychological depths. It isn't always needed, and Anna Nicole was such a character that maybe she'll fill the opera with sheer panache.
Turnage's Hammered Out could not have found a better interpreter in David Robertson, Mr Energetic himself. He stresses the tension in the repeated patterns, punched out rapid fire. In the middle movement, there's some respite, but then the sassiness begins again. Tight, muscular playing from the BBCSO.
David Robertson and Gil Shaham have such rapport that it's always an event when they play together. Robertson's married to Shaham's sister but the relationship goes much deeper. It's practically symbiotic as this performance of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto showed. They've probably done this piece together dozens of times, but it still feels fresh and exciting. If anything, their experience warms the performance, as it flowed confidently and naturally.
Evenly paced Sibelius Symphony No 2, as well. Listening to this old favourite after listening to Shaham made me think about Sibelius as violinist, so I paid special attention to the strings. Every time we listen to something we're always hearing "new". If we're human, we're always developing, as the performers do too, and it's not a bad thing. I was delighted then to spot that BBCTV 4 is showing Christopher Nupen's wonderful film about Sibelius again tonight. No rebroadcast, get the DVD. It's one of the few music documerntaries that you can play over and over and stll enjoy because it's a work of art in itself.
Latest news is that a long passage of Turnage's Hammered Out is almost identical to a pop hit by Beyoncé. Yow!! Good for her! There's no reason why pop shouldn't cross into so-called serious music! Not so sure, though, about Turnage not giving her credit.
See also THIS Until this week I'd never heard of Beyoncé but managed to guess that Hammered Out was "not scary", "entertaining" and would be a popular hit ! What a laugh !