Royal Albert Hall, London
The orchestra’s second Proms appearance this year saw Joshua and Alisa Weilerstein lead a smartly restrained recital of of Pascal Dusapin’s concerto
Intensity and introspection … Alisa Weilerstein. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou/BBC
Outscape, Pascal Dusapin’s concerto for cello and orchestra, was the novelty in the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s second appearance at this summer’s Proms. The concert was conducted by Joshua Weilerstein, and his elder sister Alisa was the soloist in the piece Dusapin composed for her, which she had premiered in Chicago last year.
The title, the composer says, “carries the musical project within itself”, and though the word “outscape”, coined in the 19th century by Gerard Manley Hopkins, seems now to carry multiple meanings, Dusapin construes it in the sense of escaping elsewhere and finding one’s own path. That’s the journey undertaken by the cello in the concerto. There’s no hint of traditional concerto dialectic, no confrontational to and fro between soloist and orchestra, but instead the sense of two independent protagonists who sometimes move towards each other or exchange roles, yet always preserve their distinct identities.
The first half of the 27-minute, single-movement work is restrained and introspective, with the ruminating solo cello shadowed first by a bass clarinet and then by a succession of other instruments in the orchestra. The level of activity and the expressive intensity, increase in the second half, though a lot of that busy detail went missing in the Albert Hall; listening later to the BBC’s binaural recording was far more involving. By any standard, it’s a demanding challenge for the soloist, who is allowed very few chances to rest, though the long tendrils of melody that the cello spins do make the most of Alisa Weilerstein’s rich tone, and she projected them intensely.