A Glorious Sea Symphony from Bournemouth


Beethoven, Bridge, Vaughan Williams: Ailish Tynan (soprano), Benedict Nelson (baritone), Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / David Hill (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole 8.2.2017. (IL)

Beethoven – Calm Sea & Prosperous Voyage

Bridge – The Sea

Vaughan Williams – A Sea Symphony

Michael Kennedy, Vaughan Williams’ biographer, once said that A Sea Symphony was his favourite amongst RVW’s nine symphonies. Mine too; I could never tire of it. I was therefore eagerly anticipating this BSO performance. I was not disappointed. This epic work contrasts the real with the mystical. The opening movement is an exciting, salty salutation to all brave sailors, the second a nocturne as the baritone reflects on being on the beach alone at night, the third an exhilarating scherzo as sailors enjoy the winds and waves. But it is the large-scale mystical finale that for me makes or breaks a performance as Walt Whitman’s verses survey, with awe and wonder, the beauty and immensity of the universe and anticipates one’s last voyage into the unknown.

David Hill, a very experienced choral conductor, drew a powerful, evocative performance with an outstanding contribution from the orchestra and the large chorus. The chorus hardly put a foot wrong, with impeccable entries and committed singing, breezy and strong and, when required, delicately poised. Irish soprano Ailish Tynan’s refined tones cruised through her demanding role. There was just a slight occasional weakness of line but how secure she was on those top notes and how strongly she projected them! Benedict Nelson, an oaken-voiced, husky baritone gave authority to his role.

I wish I could have been as enthusiastic about the supporting programme. Frank Bridge’s The Sea has long been another favourite of mine, ever since I heard Sir Charles Groves’ classic recording. Hill’s reading did not reach that sublimity. The BSO captured the more obvious melodic content beautifully but missed out when it came to a realistic evocation of the pitch and toss, the shifting, ever-changing movement of the waters that Groves so imaginatively captured.

The brief Beethoven piece was something of a potboiler and proved the immense contrast between music of 1815 and that of the early 20th century. In passing, I imagined how interesting it might have been if Hill had programmed an interesting contrast using Delius’ Songs of Farewell with A Sea Symphony? The Delius work, again settings of Walt Whitman, also features musings on one’s after-death voyaging into the unknown.

Ian Lace

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • 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 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017 Malcolm Arnold Festival in Northampton __________________________________
  • 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! The 2017 Oxford Lieder Festival – The Last of the Romantics __________________________________
  • 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 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Philadelphia’s Inaugural O17 Festival __________________________________
  • 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! Opportunity for a Rare Composition Masterclass with Gavin Bryars in April 2018 __________________________________
  • 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 __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H