The London Chamber Orchestra Salute Shakespeare – and Walton

23/10/2016

Mendelssohn, Walton: Bertrand Chamayou (piano); Simon Harrison (narrator); London Chamber Orchestra; Choir of Royal Holloway; Choristers of New College Oxford/Christopher Warren-Green (conductor), Cadogan Hall, London, 20.10.2016. (RB)

Mendelssohn – Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op 25

Walton –  Henry V:  A Shakespeare Scenario (arr. Christopher Palmer)

The London Chamber Orchestra opened their 2016-17 season of concerts under the baton of their principal conductor, Christopher Warren-Green. The theme of both the main concert and the preceding free concert was the Shakespeare 400th anniversary celebrations. The free concert (which I did not attend) featured a performance of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an arrangement by Paul Max Edlin for string quartet. The principal work on the programme for the main concert was Walton’s music to Laurence Olivier’s film of Henry V in the arrangement by Christopher Palmer.

The distinguished French pianist, Bertrand Chamayou, joined Warren-Green and the LCO for the opening work on the programme, Mendelssohn’s G minor Piano Concerto. Chamayou released a recording of Mendelssohn’s solo piano music to critical acclaim in 2008 so he has considerable form in this music and his performance of the G minor Concerto did not disappoint. In the opening movement Chamayou seemed to find the perfect balance between the fiery and more lyrical elements and I loved the very clean and incisive way he handled the rapid-fire passagework. Warren-Green and the LCO provided a light and sympathetic accompaniment and there was an excellent balance between orchestra and soloist. The LCO’s inner strings produced a gorgeous tonal sheen in the opening section of the slow movement before Chamayou entered the fray with a very sincere and heartfelt melody. The filigree passagework was played with exquisite touch and Chamayou showed us what a fine chamber musician he is in some tight exchanges with the LCO. The LCO’s horns heralded in the last movement in emphatic fashion before Chamayou entered with rapid-fire arpeggios. While there is no programme for this concerto, the finale is very much a return to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Chamayou allowed the music to bubble along in an enchanting, exhilarating way before launching into the turbo-charged coda. This was very fine playing by Chamayou and his performance stands comparison with some of the greatest interpreters of this work.

William Walton was the last of the great Classical film composers and he collaborated with Laurence Olivier on three films of Shakespeare plays: Henry V was their final collaboration. The aim of the film was to boost morale in the closing stages of World War II and it was dedicated to ‘the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain’. A musical suite was made from the film score by Muir Matheson who had conducted the soundtrack. However, a subsequent conversation between Christopher Palmer, the actor Christopher Plummer and the late Sir Neville Marriner resulted in a reworking of the music for narrator, orchestra and chorus. Palmer’s reworking includes almost all of Walton’s original music from the film and the narrator recites large chunks of the text from Shakespeare’s play and has the unenviable task of breathing life into numerous characters in the play.Simon Harrison, who is a regular performer at The Globe, took on the role of the narrator for this performance.

There are mixed views on Christopher Palmer’s reworking of Walton’s score but Warren-Green and his collaborators certainly made a strong case for it at this concert. In the opening Prologue the LCO moved seamlessly from Walton’s neo-Romantic idiom to the arrangements of Elizabethan keyboard music which the composer integrated so successfully into the score. The comic interludes in the Boar’s Head, the sorrow of Falstaff’s demise and the tenderness of ‘Touch her soft lips and part’ were all depicted vividly and with a rich range of colour. The LCO’s brass and percussion conjured up some stirring martial music and the Agincourt section had power and grandeur. Simon Harrison proved a consummate narrator, both in the way he depicted the unfolding events and the manner in which he brought Shakespeare’s cast of unforgettable characters to life. Warren-Green’s direction was adept throughout and I was impressed with the way in which he was able to pull the orchestra, choir and narrator together in such a seamless way.

Overall, this was an auspicious opening to the LCO’s 2016/17 season and a fitting tribute to the Bard.

Robert Beattie           

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! The Generosity of Gwyneth Jones: Her Masterclass at the Royal College of Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H