The penultimate première of this year’s Proms almost didn’t happen last Thursday, when two of the trio of percussionists failed to turn up, resulting in seven or eight rather tense minutes while presumably a host of minions dashed about behind the scenes attempting to find & drag them onstage. It falls to these three players to begin DoReMi, the second violin concerto by Peter Eötvös, so their eventual arrival was met with a generous round of applause as well as, one imagines, some hefty sighs of relief. Eötvös composed the work for Midori, the title being a pun (of sorts) on her name, in addition to its obvious reference to the notes C, D & E (in solfège); she was joined by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Despite repeated listenings, i can’t decide whether i’m fascinated by this piece for the wrong reasons, or irritated by it for the right ones. Let’s put it this way: in terms of breadth of variety & imagination, DoReMi has it in spades, putting to shame plenty of the other premières heard in this year’s season. Yet – what’s the bigger picture here? what’s Eötvös’ main argument? what’s uniting all of that variety & imagination into a large, cohesive whole? This lack of an obvious developmental thread or discourse means one is forced to take the work more-or-less on trust, yet even in that more superficial light, the piece acquits itself quite well. One can make a case that there are times when it would be nice if the violin would just shut up for a minute or two, particularly as a lot of its material lacks a robust sense of character. But that’s perhaps to judge the piece too much by precedent & tradition; i’ve come to enjoy DoReMi more by hearing the solo violin part as a kind of overzealous tour guide, escorting us through the work’s assortment of ideas with (sometimes irritatingly) wild enthusiasm. Maybe it sounds self-defeating to consider paying less attention to the violin in what is clearly a violin concerto, yet there’s little evidence that the solo part is in any way affected by the activities of the instruments around it (apart from the dark episode roughly seven minutes before the end, where the violin is kick-started into action by insistent pokes from the orchestra). Giving the orchestra as much if not more attention yields far more significant dividends, revealing too how much soloistic writing Eötvös has given to the various sections; it’s certainly no concerto for orchestra, but the nature & extent of their interactions as well as the interest in their material is very much more engaging than most of what is presented by the soloist. If only the violin felt more involved in the work’s proceedings, DoReMi could be a rather stunning addition to the repertoire; both the high lyricism that emerges toward the end (with faint echoes of Schnittke’s underrated first violin concerto) & the interesting stylistic mélange of its duet with a viola hint at what might have been; as it stands, however, it’s limited to being something of a curiosity—one with undeniably superb elements of decoration & filigree, but ultimately just a bit too frustrating for its own good.
The broadcast was hosted by one of the BBC’s few remaining presenters whom one can take seriously, Donald Macleod. His unflappably composed vamping during the eight minute hiatus before the performance is so entertaining that i’ve left it in the recording.
Peter Eötvös – DoReMi (UK Première)
Peter Eötvös – DoReMi
- Loved it! (14%, 2 Votes)
- Liked it (57%, 8 Votes)
- Meh (29%, 4 Votes)
- Disliked it (0%, 0 Votes)
- Hated it! (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 14