By Andrew M. Collins – March 30th 2015
Tchaikovsky : Romeo and Juliet (Fantasy Overture)
Elgar : Cello Concerto
Rimsky-Korsakov : Scheherazade
Jaime Martín – conductor
Andreas Brantelid – cello
It was one of those unforgettable evenings where everything and everyone performed beautifully. Perfectly. Sensationally. Perhaps only a full super-moon beaming down on Brighton Dome could have made it better – but the show was just a little too late in the month for that.
Full moon or no, the exceptional London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the passionate direction of conductor Jamie Martin and with guest star cellist Andreas Brantelid produced a phenomenal, deeply moving performance to end their 2015 season at Brighton Dome.
The evening started with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet – his fantasy overture written in 1869.
It was written to convey the anguish of impossible love and based on Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name. It was also very personal to the composer, who, as a homosexual, in the highly prejudicial 19th Century was disillusioned and doomed in love, even having a sham marriage for respectability. He poured his anguish and frustration into works.
Tchaikovsky did two quite fundamental revisions of Romeo and Juliet – one in 1870 and one in 1880. It’s a dramatic overture – beautiful and haunting, especially the initial harp and wind instrument theme counterpointed with Pizicatto. Furious strings and drums in middle quicken the pulse, the clashing of the two families – the Capulets and Montagues – in the story. Then we enter into the much repeated refrain, the love theme which swells and excites. The last two minutes are soulful, poignant and really rather wistful. The climax is somewhat unnecessary I feel, but perhaps de rigueur. Regardless – a wonderful overture to experience, rich and evocative.
Next was Elgar’s Cello concerto in E minor Op. 85 with guest star Cellist Andreas Brantelid. It’s a complex, slightly convoluted piece written just after the First World War. He poured his feelings about the appalling destruction of Europe into four pieces, the last being the Cello Concerto completed in 1919.
It’s been described as anguished, joyful, nervous, skittish – no doubt accurately reflecting his varied moods at the time. The first movement opens with a soulful cello refrain, which is answered by the clarinet; a dialogue starts between the two. The strings come in with a melody, then the main aching, impassioned cello theme starts, with the strings coming in to accompany it. Yet through all the sadness, the first movement has a tender hope to it, sun rays through the clouds. The second movement is more animated, yet the wistfulness remains. It’s flamboyant, highly articulate and exciting with addictive themes.
The cello playing by Andreas was superlative and outstanding. He truly is a star performer – indeed, he treated us to an impromptu solo after the concerto – a taste of Bach’s cello suite – much to our delight.
The showpiece of the night was Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade Symphonic Suite Op. 35. It was 45 minutes of entrancing, captivating bliss. It’s sensual, romantic, dangerous and alluring; really beyond meaningful words and dare I say into spiritual realms. A musical epiphany in four glorious movements : The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, The Kalendar Prince, The Young Prince and the Young Princess, and Festival at Baghdad.
We are first introduced to the main theme and glowing fanfare. Then we have Scheherazade‘s delightful motif featuring a solo violin and harp. The movement then surges forward, exciting and powerful; you can really visualise a Galleon in stormy seas on an adventure. The second movement describes the travelling tale of a young prince, overshadowed by ominous tones – full of tension and drama with delightful relief in the form of Pizzacato strings and clarinet solo. The third movement is deeply romantic – evoking the love between a Prince and Princess.
A momentous final section pulls all the previous themes together, most notably the Scheherazade theme juxtaposed with the booming, invigorating Sultan motif, culminating in a surprisingly delicate ending.
An extraordinary performance by the London Philharmonic, and I think I saw the conductor wipe away a few tears at the end, so powerful it was. A wonderful antidote to the woes of the world.
The ovation should have been standing.
London Philharmonic Orchestra’s next performance is on 12th April at Eastbourne where they continue their residency there :