Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Beethoven or Gerald Barry ?

 Prom 50 should have been one of the top picks of the season, with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.  Beethoven and Stravinsky......but Gerald Barry ?   Beware any composer who repeatedly compares himself to Beethoven. Even in self-parody, a joke taken too far stops being a joke, but a sad display of The Importance of Being Earnestly Self Important.  No doubt there will be many who'll fall over themselves being clever and flatter Barry for this latest jape (of many). But methinks, it's pretentious tosh. 

Barry's Canada was inspired by a spur of the moment thought, while being held up at an airport in Canada, which he equates with Fidelio, Beethoven, Idealism, Liberty, Oppression and so on, and throws in an extra lick about surveillance society to boot. Gee, clever !  Canada has nowt to do with  much at all unless you like slam bang wham and repeated words and phrases.  Once, Beethoven stood for something. Now in this post-truth universe where anything goes as long as you can get away with it, we get what we deserve.  Barry, not Beethoven.. Kudos to Allan Clayton and to the band, and  to whoever directs Barry's career.  But of course, what do I know?

H K Gruber used to play The Fool but Gruber was genuinely creative and maniacally inventive. Because he wasn't fooling himself. So the Prom audience and performers laughed. But now all laughs are what they seem. Thus perhaps the need for Beethoven-lite, a Symphony no 5 that breezed along merrily, and why not for a change? After Barry, Beethoven can't compete. Fortunately, in the first half we had Beethoven's Overture "Leonore" no 3 and Stravinsky Violin Concerto no 2 with Leila Josefowicz, expressively played. Her encore was Esa-Pekka Salonen's Lachen verlernt - Laughing Unlearnt - which playfully juggles repeated phrases, but which is genuinely witty.

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