Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Ivan Fedele Scena; Rossini Stabat Mater

The Barbican, 30 November 2006
Pre-concert talk: Roderick Swanston introduces Rossini's Stabat Mater and talks to Ivan Fedele

BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Symphony Chorus
David Robertson conductor
Majella Cullagh soprano
Patricia Bardon mezzo soprano
Colin Lee tenor
Alastair Miles bass

These were uncomfortable bedfellows. The Rossini Stabat Mater is not a work we'd want to hear often, nor were Roderick Swanston's arguments in its favour persuasive. The large BBC Symphony Chorus of some 125 sounded fine under David Robertson's encouragement, though the exciting impact of hearing large choirs live is diminished for me since the great days of, say, the Huddersfield Choral Society; ("big" sound is so readily available on good hi-fi) ! Of the soloists, only Patricia Bardon in duet and solo Cavatina made the Stabat Mater worth hearing.

More interesting, I confess, were the programme notes about it, rehearsing how Rossini had shared out the task with a forgotten colleague, number by number, followed by legal and publishing shenanigans; all caricatured by Wagner under a pseudonym...

Subject to correction, Scena was its famous Italian composer's belated UK premiere of a major orchestral work; we were told that David Robertson has a particularly close affinity with Ivan Fedele's output, and I understand that a London concert performance of the opera Antigone is planned for two years ahead.

A few people took up the pre-concert interview opportunity to get a feel of Fedele as a person. We learnt that he had been an accomplished concert pianist from childhood (Webern Op 27 & Stockhausen Klavierstucken alongside the classics !) studying with Bruno Canino, who encouraged him to straddle all idioms of music as one. And that his concertos for various instruments grew from and with personal musical friendships with their dedicatees. Fedele made light of his formidable intellectuality (he studied academically fractal geometry and spatial organisation of orchestral sound). The opera has Tiresias's voice modified by a sensor/computer modification system he had developed in his Capt-Actions for string quartet, accordion and electronics.

The hurried interview left no time for illustrations of the music being touched upon in passing; many of the works mentioned are in my CD collection.

Scena for large orchestra (17 minutes) composed to inaugurate the 1998 season at La Scala, Milan, benefited from David Robertson's model introduction, with extracts given by the orchestra. Easy to enjoy and never abrasive, it is eventful music, with contrasting 'figures', or musical 'characters', interacting in theatrical gestures that make their mark to any receptive listener.

Whilst this music ought not to be in no way repellent to a regular symphony concert audience, its reception at the Barbican by one which had obviously assembled for the big choral work, was decidedly muted, despite all Robertson's help.

It would have gone better, I suspect, in a Prom, with a small scale associated companion concert (q.v. Jonathan Harvey's Composer Portrait this year). Or maybe Ivan Fedele should be in line for one of the Philharmonia's Music of Today free concerts (e.g. Saariaho's in 2005)?

It was all broadcast live and is now available, and for seven days ahead, on BBC R3 Listen Again. Please try to hear it and let Musical Pointers know what you think and feel?

I had been introduced in Stuttgart to Ivan Fedele by flautist Mario Caroli (pictured together in Warsaw after playing Profilo in eco) and have since then followed his more recent compositions.
See our reviews of Fedele's Stradivarius CDs:
orchestral music Scena, concertos etc on http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/FEDELE_Concertos.htm
and http://www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2001/May01/Fedele.htm
Note too Fedele's string quartets (which should be taken up in our music colleges). There is also Mixtim for chamber ensemble.

Peter Grahame Woolf