I said in my review of A Spanish Hour from Mid Wales Opera about the French’s love for Spain and its music. Here with this concert from BBC NOW we got more of this celebration and the addition of a native composer with flair and much character.
Any opportunity to see Angela Hewitt on piano should not be missed. On this night we were blessed with a full first part of the evening devoted to her concerto playing along with the pristine orchestra. I had made the assumption that Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain would be just for orchestra, but this version also featured solo piano and this is where Hewitt comes in. The curious nature of de Falla’s music is his fusing together of traditional Spanish music along with some modern twists. This work was an acquired taste, though it did give Hewitt the opportunity to bring out of the work some eye-catching playing, one of her many markers. The piece was heavy, yet still had some amazing qualities with the relationship between the piano and orchestra.
In Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Hewitt proved just how extraordinary is to play within a limited range. The composition of the piece is an article in itself, yet the music is a raucous and sentimental experience, never failing to put smiles on faces. It might be a bit pithy compared to his meatier other piano concerto, but with Hewitt never giving less than her best, it usually sparkles and was made fresh and contemporary. With more de Falla, his first suite from his ballet The Three-Cornered Hat is a pleasing opener to the second half. It is less gusty than the first work on the programme, though is brimming with Spanish delights. The dances heard within are usually a toe tapping endeavour, brought to life exceptionally well but the players.
Debussy’s Ibéria from his Images, is another stellar country crossing composition. It opens with typical castanets and tambourines strikes, but gladly melts into another world of sublime viola playing, lush woodwind and other noticeable features. Debusys has a tendency to let his music was away in your hands. You just have to catch it before it’s too late.
And finally, Boléro. We all know it. Ravel’s most famous work thanks to a certain ice skating duo back in the early 80s, still makes for a fun time in the concert hall. This early minimalist gem, has an ear worm of a melody which repeats time and times again, with various instruments each getting a turn to try it out. The crescendo at the end is surprising, even if you know the work. Here the players are sheer brilliance, patient with the score and dynamite when the end comes.
BBC NOW perform Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Hoddinott Hall on 15th February 2019 and returns to St David’s Hall with the St David’s Day Concert on 1st March 2019.
Photo Credit: BBC NOW FaceBook Page