Arts Reviews

BBC Symphony Orchestra @ Royal Concert Hall

Performing three pieces composed early in the twentieth century, conducted passionately by Gergely Madaras, The BBC Symphony Orchestra evoked the fervour, the humour and all the varied feeling of orchestral music penned in that period. They did an astounding job of conveying the rich life of their main piece, Carmina Burana, and the entire experience left the audience in awe.

In the first half, the orchestra performed two instrumental pieces- Ibert’s Bacchanale followed by Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.

The first was a shorter piece, lively and playful, evoking similar feelings to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In their short written introduction to the concert, the BBC stated “Ibert’s fun-loving Bacchanale sets the tone of this spirited concert”. Indeed, its swelling changes in tempo and dynamic make this an exciting start. Within this piece occurred one of my favourite moments of the entire evening, the short but exquisite trumpet solo. Though all soloists in the orchestra must be congratulated, this in particular seemed to be a moment of unique beauty, tastefully delivered.

The second piece, by Hindemith, was inspired by ballet when originally composed. Though it is only an orchestral piece, elements made it seem like there should be choreography alongside the music. Listening in the present day, the music paralleled a contemporary film score. For example, the emphasis on percussion created a beautiful moment at the start of the second movement, where bells rang out as if from a church across a sleepy village.

After the interval, the orchestra were joined by the Nottingham Harmonic Choir and Southwell Minster School Boys Chorus to perform their key piece, Orff’s iconic Carmina Burana.

Beginning with the famous ‘O Fortuna!’, the choir made it abundantly clear that this piece is at its best when performed live. The strength of the choir in unison and the melody mirrored by the high strings and supported by the booming percussion made it a stunning start. Yet the piece is so varied, weaving through twenty-five movements in just over an hour, that it eventually strayed very far from this first song.

This transitioned into the collection of movements titled, ‘Spring’, which was both ethereal and haunting and made a lasting impression. As the Spring section came to an end, there was an audible reaction from a woman on the first tier. Whether it was a vocalisation of emotional impact or of applause it was hard to tell, but it had an effect on us all. Members of the audience and the orchestra laughed in response. It felt like a collective recognition of what a joy it is to hear live music, and be able to respond to it in real time, to the people that are performing it for you.

This performance was breathtaking, an expression of skill and passion, and it was an absolute joy to experience such music performed live. All three vocal soloists need to be recognised for their talent- soprano Sarah Tynan, tenor Samuel Boden, and baritone Marcus Farnsworth. Sarah Tynan in particular was remarkable in her strength and control performing her feminine solos. The audience were very vocal and responsive, calling the soloists and attentive conductor, Madaras, back onto stage to bow for the third time. The music was moving and the execution supreme- this curtain call was rightly deserved.


Esme Partridge

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