It wouldn’t be St David’s Day without BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Whilst some years we are treated to blockbuster works such as Verdi’s Requiem or Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, most of the time we get traditional and new work from Wales. For 2019, we got very much the latter with a section of familiar and traditional, along with the new and celebrated. Fresh from Verdi’s Un ball in maschera with WNO, Gwyn Hughes Jones showed off his tenor, with rousing songs from Wales past, Morfydd Owen’s Gweddi y Pechadur being particularly evocative. The stunning chorus also get blazing moments with work by William Mathias, Mansel Thomas and Daniel Jones. They just make it look all so easy. The land of song should be proud with the singing talents of both Gwyn and the Chorus.
What a privilege and an honour to see Catrin Finch back on stage and it was so moving to see her play new work and some of her own arrangements as well. Gareth Glyn’s world premier Vita Davidis (A life of St David) is a celebration of the life of our patron saint through orchestra and harp solo. The bone chilling opening depicting St Non give birth to David is raucous, the best part of the work, with flourish after flourish for Finch to sink her teeth into. The slow section details the hill which grew below David’s feet and the trumpet here takes the form of his voice, such was his projection. The opening sections remains the most stirring part, as the rest of this piece loses attention, even with some musical bravo abound. The concert ended with the usual anthems and hymns that I have half forgetten, having not sung them since school. I tend to over use my baritone during Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.
Touring orchestra often create a buzz in the Welsh capital and here with the Oslo Philharmonic was no different. What promised to be an unbridled musical encounter delivered in every way, thanks to the energy and determination of maestro Vasily Petrenko. Even in the opening overture: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, we hear these exceptional players in big bursts of inspiration, the famous love theme one of many heartfelt moments. Recovering from this alone, the huge 3rd Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov followed with Nicolai Lugansky. Virtuoso is an understatement for this god like musician, who formulated the relentless clamour of melodies and tricks up the composers selves (and massive hands) in a concerto that is emotionally love-sick and peppered with a stirring vitality. Lugansky made this concert extra special with what feels more like a piano-symphony, with a forceful presence I have not felt in many concerts. An encore of Debussy appeased his hungry audience, though his return soon is a demand from most concert goers.
Sibelius’ 5th Symphony wrapped things up, with more stellar playing from these eternal players. The Finnish composer is filled with breezy innovation, even with his distain for contemporary experimentation. Whilst the first two movements are of worth, it the finale Allegro molto which makes the worth famous, adding to the increasing popularity of composers 5th symphonies. The famous melody which features, inspired by the composer seeing a flock of swans, holds up as an inspired moment of music creation. The tune flickers throughout, but the finale gets to really expand on this glorious theme, rising and floating as it nothing could stop its forceful allure. The multiple false ends are another brilliant idea by Sibelius, usually leaving the audience on the end of our seats.
A concert to remember and to cherish.
BBC NOW continue their season with Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto with Boris Giltburg and Schumann’s 9th Symphony at St David’s Hall on 11th April 2019.
The International Concert Series continues with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on 29th March 2019 at St David’s Hall & Montiverdi’s Vespers with Ex Cathedra on 4th April 2019.