On Saturday 18th February, the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. They played a wide-ranging repertoire. Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews.
Having seen the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform at this very same venue last year, I had high expectations. Whilst the music wasn’t quite as much to my taste, the performance itself was just as flawless.
Led by the enigmatic conductor, Kevin John Edusei, the orchestra played three impressive pieces: Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres), Brahms’ Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’. Both the conductor and the soloist showed pure emotion as they were performing; you could see how much of a passion and joy making music is for them.
A very dissonant and disorientating tone
One word to sum up Mazzoli’s piece: sinister. The strings were utilised fantastically throughout, almost creating the eerie sound of knives been sharpened at one point, and creating an unsettling humming undertone later on. Other orchestral sections interjected to a lesser extent, but were impactful nonetheless, with the brass section creating a sound that could be best described as a dramatic danger siren. By using techniques such as these, the piece overall had a very dissonant and disorientating tone, with an echoing and almost anticipatory feel maintained throughout.
Of the three pieces, this was my least favourite, but this is purely because of my own music tastes; I prefer pieces with a clearer melody. Following on from this, I feel I need to emphasise that, in terms of the quality of performance, the London Philharmonic Orchestra would score 5 stars, without doubt. My only reason for knocking off half a star was simply due to my personal enjoyment of the pieces.
The contrasting dynamics, tempo and texture kept the audience on the edge of their seats
The middle piece by Brahms was, hands down, my favourite. The fact that James Ehnes, the solo violist, managed to remember such a lengthy piece off by heart, left me full of admiration. The combination of the solo with the full orchestra was incredible. I was also pleased to hear interjections of the woodwind and brass sections into the piece; because of its title, I expected it to be string-dominated.
Musically, throughout the three movements, there were references back to earlier melodies, whilst remaining new and exciting. Ehnes showed such a range of musical techniques, scalic melodies nearer the start of the piece, repeating trills, and more comforting and melodic moments. Both in the solo and orchestral parts, the contrasting dynamics, tempo and texture kept the audience on the edge of their seats.
This really demonstrated the comradery between everybody involved in the performance
The density of the orchestral involvement was also ever-changing. My favourite moment was where the soloist and only one other violin were playing together; it was beautiful, and gave the audience a pause to relax. Another memorable moment for me was when the soloist and the orchestra appeared to work together to complete each bar of music; the orchestra emphasised the first beat of each bar, whilst the soloist continued it with unbelievably rapid movement.
What I thought was also heartwarming, was how the conductor embraced the soloist after the piece ended. This really demonstrated the comradery between everybody involved in the performance.
The third piece by Beethoven began its first movement with interwoven legato textures, and certain sections of the orchestra dramatically dropping out at various points. Cheeky and cheerful are descriptions that could certainly be applied to the initial part of the piece, and this, combined with a wonderfully relaxed melody, soaring dynamics, and a faultless clarinet solo, made for extremely enjoyable listening!
Vibrating undertones of the strings in places reminded me of rain drumming on a roof
As the piece progressed, I really liked the almost ballroom-like melody that was introduced. This created a romantic tone that hadn’t been present in any of the other pieces. Key changes unexpectedly shifted the mood of the piece from joyful to melancholy, and the moment of silence with only the flute playing, led to a pause for reflection.
The latter movements of Beethoven’s piece contrasted the early ones dramatically. Rapid tempo domintated in many areas, in addition to fortissimo and bold repeated rhythms. The vibrating undertones of the strings in places reminded me of rain drumming on a roof, or of the buzzing of bees.
As a clarinet player myself, I was pleased that the woodwind section were able to shine, particularly towards the end of the concert!
It left me wanting more
Interestingly, I didn’t find the conclusion of the piece particularly definitive – it left me wanting more, which was perhaps the point.
I could not recommend attending a concert by this orchestra more. Their musicality, enthusiasm, professionalism and attention to detail deserves huge praise. I would like to thank Kevin John Edusei, James Ehnes, and every single member of the orchestra for providing me with such a memorable Saturday evening.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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