Posted tagged ‘Jonathan Dove’

London Phoenix Orchestra — 17 May

May 13, 2008

Phoenix Orchestra flyer

It’s on Saturday… This is going to be a great concert!  St Cyprian’s, Glentworth Street, is a nice Victorian* church a few minutes’ walk from Baker Street underground station.

Jonathan Dove‘s ‘Airport Scenes’ is a suite of instrumental movements from his amazing opera ‘Flight’ (1998).  Very bright and sparky, ear-catching and very easy to listen to, tricky to play but exhilarating.

Rachmaninov‘s ‘Isle of the Dead’, by contrast, is an atmospherically gloomy evocation of the passage by boat to your final resting-place… inspired by this picture by the Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin:

Bocklin -- Isle of the Dead

Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade’ I don’t need to tell you about – it’s just the most glorious piece of exotic and colourful orchestral music ever written!  And there are some great violin solos from Catherine.

I’m off to practice my diddly-iddlys…

See you there!

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*I see from their website that St Cyprian’s is not quite Victorian:  designed by Ninian Comper, 1903.

note:  Böcklin painted at least two versions of ‘The Isle of the Dead’.  The one shown is the later (1886) version, now in Leipzig.  The earlier (1880) version, in Basel, is darker and even more atmospheric, but would be harder to reproduce on here.

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Southbank Sinfonia (twice)

March 14, 2008

sbs2.jpg The Southbank Sinfonia is a brilliant idea – a ‘semi-professional’ orchestra employing young instrumentalists between college and a professional career.  To judge by their list of alumni now in orchestral positions, it works.

The orchestra is the brainchild of conductor Simon Over.  It has no state funding (surprise surprise!) and is maintained by a large roster of generous supporters and huge amounts of goodwill, particularly through partnerships with ‘grown up’ orchestras such as the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, who provide coaching, playing opportunities and ‘sit-ins’ alongside professional players.  And imaginative sponsors like accompanist Malcolm Martineau who provides free refreshments at concerts – hooray!

Monday’s concert was part of the lunchtime recital series at the Royal Opera House, though moved into the spacious (and echoey) surroundings of the Paul Hamlyn Hall (formerly the Floral Hall).  A slightly rum programme…

It began with a Vivaldi Concerto for Two Trumpets, bravely performed without a conductor.  The soloists (Christopher Seddon and Rob Wallace) were two cool dudes to whom evidently nothing was a problem – they enjoyed every minute and played faultlessly, stationing themselves antiphonally either side of the band.

Two quibbles:  how could anyone think it’s OK to perform any kind of baroque concerto without a keyboard continuo??  Just because it ‘sort of’ works to have just a cello and bass accompanying the soloists, that doesn’t make it right.  And no, the slow movement is not just ‘a mere six bars long… a passage of modulation played by the strings alone’ – which is how they played it, earnestly and meaninglessly:  no, it’s the basis for something – keyboard improvisation?  Violin improvisation?  (Probably not the trumpets, as they need the rest.)  Something has to happen, and somebody has to take a decision about what.  Awful sinking feeling that STILL nobody in the music colleges is taught anything beyond the received nineteenth-century ways of playing things.

They need to read a certain series of helpful books…

The orchestra was joined by Australian soprano Anita Watson, a rising star in the ROH’s firmament and a radiant smiling presence (I previously enjoyed hearing her in Donizetti’s Rita – read more here).  Her choice of arias – Mozart’s ‘Nehmt meinen Dank’ and the ‘Et incarnatus’ from the C minor Mass, and Richard Strauss’s ‘Morgen’ – suited her to perfection.  Lovely violin solo in the Strauss, from leader Tatiana Byesheva.

In between Anita Watson’s items, Graham Sheen conducted his arrangement of five Danzas Gitanas by Joaquin Turina.  The rather vague programme note did not describe the individual movements or even tell us what forces Graham had arranged them for.  As far as I could see, it was a wind decet (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns) with extras – piccolo, cor anglais – plus two trumpets and a double bass.  Smashing arrangements, full of vivid colours and rhythmic life.  I slightly felt that the clarinets had a raw deal – perhaps because the trumpets had grabbed their share of the melodic interest?  Very nice anyway, and must have been great fun to play.  I hope they’ll be published.

And a definitely rum item to finish – Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Popular Songs, but with no singer!  Hamlet without the Prince?  I am reliably informed that it was never intended that Anita Watson should sing these.  But they sounded distinctly ‘so-what’-ish in their orchestral guise.  Ah well.

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stjohnswaterloo.jpg

Then yesterday (Thursday) – (more…)