Review: BBC NOW - Three Places In New England
After days of delirium that is Cardiff city centre at Christmas, I attempted to attend one last concert for the year. It would have to be the BBC NOW. After their full performance of Handel's Messiah (review following shortly), it's seemed the orchestra would wind down for the holidays. But we were given a sort of last minute concert, only listed a couple of weeks ago. I saw the programme and knew I had to see it. Through sheer exhaustion and tiredness, I remained strong in my bid to hear this concert.
Being preformed at the Hoddinott Hall, the last phase of the Wales Millennium Centre and the orchestra's new home, it is always a treat. It's a small concert hall, which seats 350 and in keeping with the other venues in the centre, has a great deal of wood to brag about inside (no puns please!). The hall is in the shape of a traditional Welsh chapel and the sound is phenomenal. The players aren't on a stage, but rather it is most of the audience that is raised on very comfy seats. They perform on the ground and this adds to the intimacy.
The first piece was Three Places In New England by Charles Ives, followed by Mozart's 20th Piano Concerto and lastly Dvo?k's 9th symphony, From The New World. It was admittedly the outer two works that really encouraged me to attend, as they're works that I have heard live a few times before. It's also the case that I am really fond of these works as well.
Charles Ives remains a curious character. He never regarded music as his profession as he co-owned the third most successful American insurance agency at the time, Ives & Myrick. Largely ignored in his own lifetime, his compositions have played a vital role in the modernity of music and he has the honour of being one of the first internationally regarded of American composers. If you ever wanted to hear some of his music, Three Places In New England' or even The Unanswered Question are great places to start.
The opening movement, very much like the last movement, is tremendously atmospheric. It puts to my mind a narrow path in a blindingly foggy landscape, on a bitter winter morning. It is the middle movement that has an outrageous reputation. Entitled Putnam's Camp, Redding, Connecticut (Allego), it depicts a young boy's visit to the place of interest and his imagination runs wild. Throughout we hear what must be at least a dozen different marches, overlapping, intermingling and rivalling each other. Towards the end the sounds are exceptionally loud and a thrill to listen to live.
As for Mozart, his music must be the most I've heard of any composer in the concert hall. But the concerto was an interesting interlude between the two American works. Christian Ihle Hadland was the soloist and he seemed to relish every moment of it. Granted, I couldn't see his hands whilst playing (I always regard this as vital when watching a pianist) but the density in his playing seemed so mature for winning the BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artist Scheme.
As for the symphony, what is there to say? It's one of my favourites and is a real treat to hear every time. Dvo?k's love for America is featured with Native American dances and Negro Spirituals (if you will). The second movement is well known for the famous cor anglais solo, as used in an old Hovis advert of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. The music really makes you want to dance, as it's very fetching and catchy. You can hear an influence for the Jaws soundtrack and there's even a brief tribute to Beethoven at the opening of the third movement. It's easy to see why this is his most preformed work. I do wonder how American concertgoers see the work? There are times when it can sound quite 'cowboyish' as well, with no complaints here.
I look forward to the New Year with BBC NOW and the rest of a busy and intriguing season. Can't wait!