Britten-Pears premiere

Britten-Pears Orchestra, Snape Maltings, October 6th It proved an inspiring evening in all sorts of ways at the Maltings; night had almost enveloped the reedbeds but the ornithological overture emerging cast its own magic spell.

Britten-Pears Orchestra, Snape Maltings, October 6th

It proved an inspiring evening in all sorts of ways at the Maltings; night had almost enveloped the reedbeds but the ornithological overture emerging cast its own magic spell.

Inside, the talented and committed players of the Britten-Pears Orchestra launched their youthful energy on a programme of Walton, Strauss and Giorgio Battistelli.

Snape Skyscape, an Aldeburgh commission, was receiving its world premiere and the opening bars sounded firmly set in the borough, reminiscent of the Sea Interludes but sometimes louder. The rustling strings, overlaid by powerful brass, carried echoes of Sibelius. Battistelli can certainly produce the effects (aural drenching by waves) and if the overall impression was rather more derivative than original it nevertheless paid suitable homage to this area.


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Most of the players will be less than a third of Richard Strauss's age when he wrote his Four Last Songs but that did not prevent them from identifying with this nostalgic product of his old age and creating the most rich and subtle accompaniment. The flowing, chromatic harmonies were absolutely in place under Martyn Brabbin's secure direction. Susan Gritton, more effective in the higher registers, gave us moments of pure gold, particularly in the last two songs.

Walton's First Symphony bristles with youthful (well, thirtyish) energy and vigour and it was abundantly clear that the players relished the hard-edged challenges. The drive and spring in the playing reflected not only the turbulent political times (1930's) of the work's composition but the bitchy, gossipy drawing rooms of the circles in which Walton moved. The ostinato ending of the first movement packed a tremendous punch as did the final chords of the piece, conductor and players welded in total concentration and unity of purpose.

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A superb concert and a worthy tribute to this orchestra and its supporting organisation.

Gareth Jones

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