A brilliant concert last night at Colston Hall in Bristol, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in great form. Always dependable, and a consistently reliable recording orchestra with more than 300 performances to its credit, in this concert under its principal conductor Krill Karabits, they played with precision and opulence. I once said in a posting that Karabits is not charismatic, and a reader rebuked me (all comments welcome). I meant it as a compliment. He is workmanlike. He mounts the rostrum as someone there to do a good job and not to display his physical control of the players, the orchestra responding accordingly. A great rapport between them.
It was an interesting programme, well chosen to show the skill of orchestra and conductor. The soloist in Benjamin Britten’s early work, his Violin Concerto, was the Canadian James Ehnes* who played with his usual finesse and commitment. A beautifully well judged performance, with a gentle Bach solo for an encore, demanded by the audience’s applause.
Programme notes suggested that the emotion of Britten’s first movement could be interpreted as the composer’s lament at the failure of the Spanish civil war.
The score demanded the same sort of virtuosity as the first work, a suite ‘The Gadfly’ based on music by Shostakovich for the 1955 film of that name. With an enlarged orchestra with six percussionists, two harps and eight brass players, it was great fun. Everyone else seemed very sober but I laughed at some of the movements, especially the third, ‘National Holiday’ which had all the players working hard and loud and I was bold enough to at least whisper ‘bravo’, to the disapproval of a neighbouring listener. It was a splendid opener.
And then after the interval it was Prokoviev’s Seventh Symphony – his answer to the Congress of Soviet Communist’s criticism of the sixth symphony.
Again a well disciplined performance but with the characteristic open B.S.O. sound. The same team apparently plan to record all of the symphonies and this was an impressive taster of what should be a good project. (A competitive one too, I see there are at least eight complete sets currently available). I think this was a first hearing for me and I enjoyed the masterly scoring more than the work itself. Great applause again and this time for the conductor whom the Bristol audience seems to have taken to themselves. Karabits responded by the orchestra playing again the great tune of the last movement, as if a farewell before we ventured into the frosty night.
* see Posting 28.01.11