The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was back in town this Saturday 8 March at the Brighton Dome for their second concert this year. The concert had the title 'An English Idyll', and was devoted to English music by Elgar, Delius and Vaughan Williams.
|David Hill (photo: John Wood)|
They followed this with Delius' The Walk to the Paradise Garden. Another piece with origins outside the concert hall, Delius composed this as an interlude in his opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet. In the opera, the two lovers, renamed as Sali and Vreli, make the journey to the Paradise Garden, before their inevitable death together in the river. The music is sensual, and surprisingly uplifting, given what fate has in store for the young lovers. The opening contains beautifully scored music for the woodwind, and after slight initial tentativeness, the Bournemouth players produced an appropriately tender, warm tone. This was matched by some sensitive, rich string playing too, and overall this was an enjoyable performance. Hill coaxed real expression from the orchestra, and deftly handled the rhapsodic nature of Delius' writing.
|Tasmin Little (photo: Melanie Winner)|
The second half of the concert was given over to Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, and here Hill finally appeared totally in command and in his stride, eliciting a magnificent performance from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Like many others before him, Elgar waited a long time before composing his first symphony, perhaps feeling the weight of expectation, and the great symphonists that had gone before. Yet when it came, Elgar's Symphony No. 1 proved to be a huge success, described by Hans Richter as 'the greatest symphony of modern times', and it was performed nearly one hundred times in the first year alone. The orchestration is rich and lavish, yet Elgar uses great contrasts in texture too. The opening noble theme sets us off perhaps expecting Elgar in Pomp and Circumstance mode, but the jump from A flat to D minor for the restless Allegro shocks us out of this very quickly. The Scherzo is also turbulent, even sinister, and we've now travelled to F sharp minor, with a B flat major Trio, with its Mahlerian violin solo. The beautiful Adagio, which follows directly after the Scherzo without a break, prompted a standing ovation at the first performance. The final movement has incredibly full string textures, with the string sections subdivided several times, and the triumphant return of the opening noble theme returns with a blaze of trumpets for a rousing finish. David Hill judged the changes in tempo, texture and mood brilliantly throughout, and the string players in particular excelled, conquering the somewhat dry acoustic of Brighton Dome with great depth of tone. Gone was any sense of tentativeness or unsure ensemble from earlier in the evening, and this was a thoroughly engaging and lively performance of this great symphony.