Excitement and Pointillism from Eager & Welsh Sinfonia

28/09/2014

 Mendelssohn, Fauré, Gareth Glyn, Michael Csanyi-Wills, Beethoven: Welsh Sinfonia, Mark Eager (conductor). Doris Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff. 27.9.2014 (PCG)

 

Mendelssohn – Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), Op.26
Fauré – Pavane in F sharp minor, Op.50
Gareth Glyn – Legend of the Lake (1984)
Michael Csanyi-Wills – Seagull Nebula (2014)
Beethoven – Symphony No 1 in C, Op.21

 

It is always a pleasure to encounter a performance of a well-known warhorse which makes the listener sit up and take notice, and that was certainly the case with Mark Eager’s interpretation of Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave overture which opened this programme. Time and again details were brought to attention which resulted from a close examination of the score, and the persistent crescendo and diminuendi which punctuate the sustained brass chords were given their full measure here. The result was very exciting and dramatic – no sense of classical restraint – and although a larger body of violins might have made more of their fast passages, there was plentiful evidence to make one realise exactly why Wagner (not generally a fan of Mendelssohn) admired the score so much.

The Fauré Pavane made a pleasant interlude before we were given a suite extracted from Gareth Glyn’s music from the 1984 film Legend of the Lake. There were four movements here, but one would not have gathered even that much from the rather brief programme note provided by the composer, which did not even give the titles of the movements in their correct order; one would have welcomed more details about the film itself, since the music clearly reflected in many places the action on the screen. The composer’s note referred to a “distant trumpet” at the beginning, but in the event the player here was placed in the balcony of the hall, and there was no sense of remoteness at all – although even in the performance on Gareth Glyn’s own website the trumpet remains quite closely balanced. But the slow Reminiscence movement was very beautiful indeed, and the Manhunt built up a good head of rhythmic propulsion. The orchestra sounded very rich in the marvellous acoustics of the small hall.

After the interval we heard the first Cardiff performance of Michael Csanyi-Wills’s Seagull Nebula, which had been given twice before in the orchestra’s ‘Crescendo Tour’ but which the composer – who attended this concert – was hearing for the first time. He had very considerately sent me a copy of the score for advance study, and my initial reading suggested to me a piece in impressionist style, with the strings divided for almost the full duration and decorated with woodwind arabesques in the best Ravel manner. The results on hearing proved to be more pointillist – Seurat rather than Monet – with bare textures which were more suited to the medium of space which the programme, describing a space traveller approaching, passing through and receding from the nebula, described in the composer’s informative programme notes. The ‘tone poem’ (not so described) had some overtones of Holst (particularly Neptune) and Vaughan Williams (third movement of the Sinfonia Antartica) but the style was decidedly Csanyi-Wills’s own, with the jagged sforzandi in the strings picking out a richly discordant series of chords which framed the rest of the music. The composer’s earlier scores had also displayed a commendable willingness to provide richly melodic themes, but here these were reduced to “wisps of melody” which came and went through the contrapuntal lines of the orchestral writing. The result had a properly unearthly feel which was most effective, and the playing was everything that one could wish. Apparently the quiet cymbal roll which rustled in the ear in the last bars – missing from the full score – had arisen during rehearsals as the result of some bizarre copying mistake – but it was a very beautifully atmospheric touch.

Beethoven’s First Symphony which concluded the programme was given a delightfully sly and cheeky performance which brought out to the full the composer’s iconoclastic touches which must so have surprised its first audiences. Mark Eager obtained splendid results from the orchestra, and we were given the full measure of repeats which are so essential to balance the structure of the music with the exception of the exposition repeat in the slow movement (not a serious loss). The violins positively relished their initial hesitant disclosure of the main theme at the beginning of the finale, bringing out to the full the sense of humour that the moment so clearly requires. This orchestra goes from strength to strength, and their current touring schedule clearly benefits from the ability to thoroughly explore the works in their repertory with multiple rehearsals and performances. Their playing throughout was excellent. The programme is scheduled to be repeated (with some minor changes) at the Gwyn Hall, Neath (2 October), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (3 October), the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven (15 November) and Christ College, Brecon (16 January). Audiences in those localities should make every effort to hear these performances; they will be in for a treat.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! The Twelfth English Music Festival Coming Soon in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty at the London Coliseum in June __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! The London Orchestra Project’s Metamorphosen on 27 May at LSO St Luke’s __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month