Review by Julia Pascal.
Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances (2022) began this programme and announced a new star on the London musical stage. Simon’s creations reveal elements of African-American music and the power of Pentecostal Church worship as well as the influences of Steve Reich, Aaron Copeland and George Gershwin. It was Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F Major (1925) which probably drew in the full house at this Albert Hall Prom. Little did audiences expect that they would witness the Proms debut of a major composer whose work promises to be of great importance to the musical canon. Simon’s four thrilling Black American Dances are an interplay of different ‘narratives’. They are often witty, jazzy, sometimes conversational, sometimes poignant, occasionally neo-Romantic and totally engaging. Feet were tapping in the audience and the collective thrill of delight at this premiere almost lifted the roof.
Simon’s artistry was well served by Andris Nelsons’ conducting of the brilliant Boston Symphony Orchestra in this mixed programme with a unifying theme of dance. Nelsons’ gift is to embody the music he is leading. His interpretation of Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947 version) and Gershwin’s Piano Concert in F Major (1925), was in sync with his presentation of Simon’s Four Black American Dances. Nelsons led his orchestra in such a way as to suggest that this was also the premiere for Stravinsky, Gershwin and Ravel. Tauntingly, he played with sound levels to provoke us to listen to modern classics in a new way. His genius for interpretation makes us realise how Ravel’s troubling La Valse,(1919-1920) exposes the composer in the act of deconstructing the very work he is creating.
Julia Pascal © 2023.