Review: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra - Beethoven's 9th Symphony @ SDH
Another exciting orchestra and choir from afar visits Cardiff, as this year's International Orchestral Series is wrapping up.
It's great to hear the music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. It's even greater to hear it performed by Polish musicians. His Stabat Mater is seeped in the folk songs of the region of Zakopane, in Southern Poland. This part of the country proves to be a great influence to composers, as Gorecki would later utilise this very same source material.
Szymanowski has the tendency to create very direct, striking compositions. The fusion of classical and Polish folk, is a heady mix, creating magic on the concert stage. It goes without saying that they really know what they're doing with his work, with their choir blasting to the audience, exotic percussion and three soloists including, Cardiff-born baritone Paul Carey-Jones all adding to heightened atmosphere.
Then came the big guns. That inescapable piece of music, that remains a landmark in Western civilisation: Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Entirely radical in its day, with a large orchestra (for its time), along with choir and soloists, it's an hour long German work, into the heart of everything, concluding with the ultra famous Song of Joy.
I did lose concentration a few times, but the firm, earthy music of Beethoven is a must to hear live. Tears of joy came to me, with attempts to try and forget the imagery of A Clockwork Orange. It's hard to take in how rebellious old Ludwig's music would have been at its premier and the fact he was deaf when he wrote it is astounding. Our quartet of singers: Carey-Jones, Andrew Rees, Wioletta Chodowicz and Hannah Pedley could at times clash with each other, but their solos were spectacular for the rousing final movement of this immortal work. The audiences standing ovation was totally justified.
Saying this, the piece is simply played too much, leading to other composers work being cast in the shadows (like Szymanowski as one of many examples).
Post show, the 30 Minutes concerts are little recitals to simmer down after the great excitement in the main hall. Originally billed as Gorecki's Sorrowful Songs, the sheet music could sadly not be found. So tonight was Nicki Rose on piano and soprano Jess Robinson, with a set of songs by Mozart, Schubert (most heartfelt), Richard Strauss, Hahn (soppy but lovely), Offenbach, E T Davies (grand Welsh language ballad) and two songs by Cardiff's great Ivor Novello (My Life Belongs To You was billed, but not performed). We'll Gather Lilacs is a sentimental war song by Ivor that is his most famous work. Rose was most attentive on the ivories and Robinson is such a great singing presence, whatever language she is doing. Her encore of The Girl In 14G is the funniest song I've heard in some time.
Rating: 4 stars
Watch Szymanowski's King Roger for free online, via the Royal Opera House's website (available for six months after the live stream broadcast).
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- Review: BBC NOW - Szymanowski's 2nd Violin Concerto @ SDH
- Review: WNO Orchestra -Bartok's The Miraculous Mandarin @ SDH (Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto)