Following on my last posting, I was at the Colston Hall in Bristol last night to hear the first programme there of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under their new principal conductor, the young Ukranian, Kirill Karabits. As he appeared on the platform the audience welcomed him warmly, but he is the antithesis of a showy extrovert, and having briefly acknowledged the applause, he turned to face his new orchestra, and in a moment we were into the first piece. From my seat above the orchestra I was able to watch his distinctive conducting style. He uses no baton but with expressive hands and arms, moulds the music, his eyes darting from the score to the players as if together they were conjuring up the sound. A comment by Christine (Dec 5th) on the first concert I saw him conduct, referred to the passion of his conducting. I agree and it is marked by the important qualities of commitment and concentration as well.
The three varied works performed last night were a challenge to this new collaboration.
My main interest was the symphony, Sibelius’s 2nd. I have several recordings and treasure performances by John Barbirolli and Simon Rattle. It’s a work I love – perhaps too much for I was just a little disappointed with last night’s performance, but cannot be sure why. Perhaps I was expecting too much. A work of starts and endings, it’s not easy to create a sense of wholeness. But it was played with verve and, yes, passion, and deserved the enthusiastic response from the audience at its ending.
Renaud Capucon was the soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto and gave a splendid performance which was matched by the sensitive accompanying of the orchestra; it was all of a piece. But the unexpected revelation of the concert for me was the opening work, The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-19159).
Densely orchestrated, employing every part of the orchestra, it revealed a hidden melodic unity which emerged continually from the torrent of sound, which I found exciting and very moving. Critics of Martinu suggest that he had no clear style and was too influenced by changing fashions in music. From the little that I have heard of his huge output that would have been my impression until last night. I was overwhelmed by the piece. Talking to a member of the orchestra in the interval he said he had never played the work before. That was in no way apparent and pays tribute to the quality of the orchestra and the preparation of its conductor.
The confidence and élan of the performances bodes well for the future of a new partnership, which we celebrated last night.