Review: Vale Of Glamorgan Festival - BBC NOW @ Hoddinott Hall
The Vale of Glamorgan Festival is back for another year of music and local sightseeing.
We get to hear some of the most intriguing compositions by living composers, as well as the opportunities to get out of Cardiff and take in some of the evocative venues the Vale has to offer. I usually see around four concerts within the space of a few days. It's a lot to take in but always worth it.
My first concert was very familiar territory by having BBC NOW in Hoddinott Hall. Tarik O'Regan's Latent Manifest started us off in bold and pretty details. We will hear more of his throughout the festival. Chinese composer Xiao Ying, who has been invited over to share his music, gave us the marvellously named The Cloud On The Wishful Side. With Cheng Yu playing the pipa, a sort of Chinese sounding mandolin, this was a heady brew of all goings on with flickers of Chinese flavourings. I've yet to see the string players flick their bows up and down, as it's written in the score at one point. This didn't really produce sounds but felt more as a visual trick. The lingering sounds and focus made it a score to be impressed by, but still fragmented and uneasy. Ying spoke after all the applause and raved about the players and hopes to have a commission for next year's festival. I'm sure that can be arranged.
Conducting the concert was Duncan Ward, who also preformed his piece Fumes for orchestra. This intoxicating sound world made it feel as if you had put your head in something you shouldn't have. It's brief nature and dance like tones had me in a fever. The percussionists as always, outstanding in their breath and tenacious attitude.
More of O'Regan (future works of his are for dance pieces) to end the concert with his Heart Of Darkness suite. Adapted from the novella by Joseph Conrad, the composer originally wrote an opera (libretto by Tom Phillips) based on the book, then made this suite. To join us to read extracts was thespian Simon Callow, who is no stranger to Cardiff audiences staring in the touring productions of Equus, Being Shakespeare and Chin-Chin. His delivery of the words makes it sound much more engrossing then when I studied this text in university (a fellow student telling the class she wanted to throw the book against the wall).
It's a dense read for such a small piece of writing. The interplay of the music and the words fell together in a harmonious manner, with the orchestra occasionally drowning out Callow's rich, sensuous voice. The score remained upbeat and felt like you were venturing into the Belgian Congo, along with all the fears and anxieties that would cause. The opera would also be on the list of things to hear.
Much more to hear, see and travel to.