Symphony Orchestra of India, St David’s Hall, Cardiff

February 22, 2019 by

The Symphony Orchestra of India is a new venture for these musicians,  only founded in 2006.  The opportunity to see them play in Cardiff was not to be missed.

It was a programme both familiar and alien, starting with Weber’s Overture to his opera Oberon. This is a German pleasantry and a great way to start things, with fluffy notes as the horn and woodwind get some pleasing highlights. The overture sweeps through the arias and instrumental moments of the opera, notorious for its lack lustre libretto. The fusion of grand court scenes and the other world of the fairy realm is what makes Weber shine here, in what is an important milestone for the emerging German opera canon.

The Third Violin Concerto by Saint-Saëns was here shared with us by Marat Bisengaliev. The French composer who usually makes great use of showing of in his work helped formulate a sparkling concerto, brought to life with glory by Bisengaliev. All eyes are on him in this virtuoso performance, filled with humanity and admiration. The tricks heard within are stirring to the ear, the creepy flat harmonic like notes heard at the end of the Andantino or the heartfelt playing at the opening as examples. An encore of Welsh composer Karl Jenkins with violin, bamboo flute and orchestra was an exquisite musical evocation, that makes us proud to have him as one of our own.

Their performance of Scheherazade was the real deal. This musical rendition of the 1001 Nights is often used as a benchmark in orchestration, a Russian masterwork by Rimsky-Korsakov. The many highlights of the large tone poem include the solo violin, heard every time the title character has escaped with her life for another night, as she entrances her husband, the Sultan with more of these amazing stories. Here in lies the musical setting of a selection of these tales, in a colourful and often sensational sound world.

There are many woodwind solos, stern and rowdy brass and the sublime violin solo, here played with a solemn grace by leader Adelina Hasani. The rest of the strings are a huge component of the orchestral storytelling, filled with exotic intrigue and charms. The work is best summed up by the terrifying majesty of the sea with the opening Sinbad and the frantic storm closing the work, only to lead to Scheherazade and having won over the Sultan with here wordplay, thus sparing her life. Hearing her theme for one last serene time is an unbridled moment in all of orchestral music. Majestic.

This first appearance by this Indian Orchestra we hope will lead to future visits and community work.

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