Review: BBC NOW - Rachmaninov's The Bells @ SDH
Saturday 3rd October 2015
BBC NOW are back with have heaps of musicality and talent abound.
This opener was Russian-heavy and was an evening of pleasing selections. Stravinsky's Fireworks was a sparkling opener. Huw Watkins and his London Concerto featured a trio of soloists: violinist, Malin Broman; bassoonist, Rachel Gough; and harpist, Hannah Stone. This striking piece was violin-heavy (but intriguing expressions were heard in the instrument), leaving the bassoon falling into the orchestral sounds and the harp to only have moments that were few and far between. More interplay between the three soloist would have been appreciated.
The Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's opera, Prince Igor never fail in blasting an audience out of its seats and into an exotic, Russian-inspired landscape. These extracts are indeed famous and are always welcome when heard live. Perhaps the whole opera is the next step? In his Cockaigne Overture (in London Town), Elgar paints jolly and rambunctious images of the big smoke (pearly kings and queens come to mind). Very English and charming, it was also a welcome delight.
The show ended with a work as Russian as a sturgeon cooked in vodka and served in Moscow: The Bells, composed by Rachmaninov. Inspired by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, it's a piece taking in all aspects of life via the use of varying bells: childhood, marriage and the inescapable dread of death. This is where the chorus and soloists shine: John Dazak (replacing Misha Didyk) joyfully signing of the thrill of a sleigh ride; Anastasia Kalagina regally accounting the steps to matrimony; and the amazing Mikhail Petrenko, solemnly lamenting a lost life. The chorus has a movement all to themselves filled with great threat and menace as Loud Alarum Bells toll out.
Rachmaninov is being celebrated at the moment in Cardiff (he always has really). This is up there with his All Night Vigil (Vespers) as is an undisputed Russian masterpiece.
Rating: 4 stars
BBC NOW's next concert at Saint David's Hall features more music by Rachmaninov and Grieg on Friday 20th November 2015.
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Image Source: BBC website