Review: NYOW - Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique @ SDH
This literary inspired concert from the young musicians of NYOW is my last event in Cardiff before heading off to Germany for Wagner's Ring Cycle (my preview article will follow very soon). A standing ovation from all at the end as conductor Jac van Steen raised the players to their feet is a memorable moment which will stay with me. Very poignant, indeed.
The new commission from Christopher Painter entitled Bugles Sang, is one of so many commissions to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Its brawling nature, marching rhythms and gorgeous violin solo (graciously preformed by leader Bethan Allmand), made for an impressive opening.
In keeping with the Richard Strauss celebrations the orchestra tackled his Also Sprach Zarathustra. Inspired by the book by Friedrich Nietzsche (heavy going I've heard!), this half-hour long tone poem contains his last famous music, as featured at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This massive crescendo fills the heart with joy and awe (Saint David's organ getting some playtime also). The later music may not be as thrilling, but some sturdy and passionate string playing is also noteworthy, not long after the big opening. I'm hoping to hear more Strauss this year and you should too!
Had Hector Berlioz not watched Shakespeare's Hamlet in 1827, he would never laid eyes on Harriet Smithson, the Irish actress who was playing Ophelia in the production. His obsession with her would result in his outstanding Symphonie Fantastique. She would eventually yield to his advantages. After all who could resist a composition write about them?
What is always spoken of with this work is its shocking modernity. It certainly doesn't sound like music from 1830 that we know and expect. This is only ever true in the last two movements: March To The Scaffold and Dream Of A Witches' Sabbath. With its abruptness and surprising attention-grabbing nature (and clearly a massive influence on Camille Saint-SaÃ«ns) these last two parts (and not the first three) make this symphony truly fantastic. A pretty little waltz in the second movement is the only pleasant part in the earlier movements.
I'm looking forward to next year's summer concert with the musicians of tomorrow. Great work everybody!
Richard Strauss' operas, SalomÃ© and Electra are sung at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, also live on BBC Radio 3 Saturday: Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st August 2014. They will be on BBC iPlayer for a week after.
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