François-Xavier Roth conducted the last concert of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Futures series. With the ballast of its program provided by recitals of two of Richard Strauss’ tone poems – a racy rendition of Till Eulenspiegel and an edgy, almost histrionic Death and Transfiguration, both brilliantly delivered by the LSO – there were three premieres, including two by composers who had previously been part of the orchestra’s Panufnik program to encourage young talent.
Finnish composer Joel Järventausta was a member of the program just three years ago. His Sunfall, inspired by a vivid 19th-century painting of a sunset, and by Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, seemed an exceptionally assured piece of orchestral writing. It is a 10-minute symphonic poem, extremely concentrated, in which violent explosions of brass alternate with more consoling instrumental lines and difficult passages of stasis.
Francisco Coll has been a Panufnik alumnus since the early days of the program. The UK premiere of his 2019 violin concerto, co-commissioned by the LSO, had been delayed by Covid. Written for Patricia Kopatchinskaja and already available on disc, it sounded as brilliantly original performed live by her as on disc. Broadly, it is a three-movement concerto in the virtuoso tradition, with cadence and perfectly suited to Kopatchinskaja’s extravagant talents, but it is also a showcase for Coll’s free-wheeling orchestral virtuosity, his teeming and tangled invention, his ear for lively sonorities, and sly references to earlier music.
The third new work was also commissioned by the LSO. But even with Håken Hardenberger as the typically assured soloist, Helen Grime’s Night-Sky-Blue Trumpet Concerto was unfortunately limited in its solo writing, which seemed to focus on just a few ideas. The orchestral writing was much more imaginative and the ear was often diverted from the solo trumpet to what was happening elsewhere – not exactly ideal in a concerto.