TURNAGE Shadow Walker BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique
In Turnage’s double concerto Shadow Walker, Vadim Repin and Daniel Hope are often entwined in canons or reflective gestures but their characteristically brittle sounds are so similar that listening to a recording it’s impossible to tell them apart. In basing his piece on the principle of Mark Wallinger’s film of the same name, in which the artist videos his own shadow casting itself over parts of Shaftesbury Avenue, Turnage hasn’t made things easy for himself; the two soloists are so tightly bound that the orchestra can feel in danger of being frozen out.
Shadow Walker comes good courtesy of Turnage’s solving of that problem even more than by his exploration of dual identity in his Siamese-twin soloists. It becomes a piece not about three but about two; while the two violins are doing their thing – antiphonal shamans one minute, best friends on a night out the next – the rhythmic and harmonic subtleties of the orchestra hold the reflective secrets, sometimes fun, sometimes thrilling, sometimes wearied.
The piece was commissioned by the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic and Turnage includes, and very much exploits, Turkish percussion. This is the BIPO’s third disc for Onyx and in a sense the most conventional. After the fascinating undertow of Shadow Walker we hear a Symphonie fantastique that places weight on the double basses as it needs to. We already know this is a fine orchestra given its relative youth, so finesse of ensemble, intonation and solos are to be expected.
Sophistication is a different matter. There are elements of this piece which need to sound dirty or plain (the dirty brass and E flat clarinet of the March to name but two), and do so rather more than on Daniel Harding’s recent recording from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Harding’s performance is a little sharper and more defined in terms of precision and colour. Goetzel’s is live, alive and uses the orchestra’s roots and characteristics to its advantage (there is a fizz in the string body and a depth that’s more earthy than aristocratic). He also deploys his own trademark ability to whip up an atmosphere while enacting discipline. In this piece, it works a treat; and, by the sound of the applause from the Musikverein, the Viennese approved.