Review: BBC NOW - Mark Bowden's A Violence of Gifts @ SDH
Saturday 18th April 2015
It's been roughly a year since hearing BBC NOW play in Saint David's Hall. That previous time was the final concert of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in a tribute to John Tavener. The Protecting Veil was, for me, the greatest discovery of 2014 and an incredibly moving and spiritual experience. This heralded in a flood of music, which I then got to discover of his.
Here, we had a new work by Mark Bowden, resident composer with the orchestra. With words by Wales' golden boy of word smithery, Owen Sheers, it declares the power and majesty of the cosmos and the intricate detailing of DNA and the human condition.
Sadly, though atmospheric and with some great moments for the chorus, Elizabeth Atherton and Roderick Williams left it wanting. But, I always encourage new music for orchestras and in the opera house. We will hear perhaps more exciting work by Bowden soon.
The big seller of the evening was the pull of The Planets by Gustav Holst. Few people can say they don't know and love the work, with each movement an actual planet of our solar system (excluding the Moon, Sun, Earth and the not-discovered-yet Pluto). It remains a testament for innovation from Britain at the time and remains fully satisfying in its variety and generosity.
Each movement is as remarkable as the last. My favourites are undoubtedly the serene prettiness of Venus, the bringer of Peace; the brutal and angsty nature of Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age; and the transcendent neutrality of Neptune, the Mystic. The piece ends in the most splendid of ways: a female choir vocalising into the cosmos, as if forever.
As for the musicians, for how long can one talk of perfection?
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Image Credit: NASA Blueshift via flickr.com