Soloists, Karabits and BSO Ring All The Bells

16/11/2017

Brahms, Beethoven, Rachmaninov: David Fray (piano), Olga Mykytenko (soprano), Artjom Korotkov (tenor), Nikolay Didenko (bass), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits (conductor). Lighthouse, Poole, 15.11.2017. (IL)

Brahms – Tragic Overture

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor

Rachmaninov –  The Bells, Choral Symphony

For this concert, Kirill Karabits arranged the Bournemouth SO violins to left and right of the podium. The result, of course, was a gorgeous spread of upper string sound, so well suited to Brahms’s Tragic Overture given with all the dramatic intensity and romantic lyricism one might wish for.

The main work was Rachmaninov’s The Bells. The greatly enlarged orchestra was joined by the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and soloists: soprano, tenor and bass. The work is based on a free Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings. The opening movement evokes the joyfulness of winter sleighs. Their bells jingle but the music also rings a doleful warning that happiness is transient. The earnest tones of tenor, Artjom Korotkov, added an appropriate note of gravitas; the choir, although happy enough, suddenly inject a chill note. The second movement, Golden Wedding Bells, is lyrical but solemn and slow. The music casts shadows as if we are being reminded of the responsibility of marriage as well as its bliss. Soprano Olga Mykytenko was tender but persuasive, her voice projecting strongly. The third movement, Loud Alarm Bells, has no soloist contribution. The concern is war and its horrors. Karabits shaped the movement’s complexities and drama exceedingly well. His choir and orchestra shrieked danger and dread with formidable urgency and attack. Finally, Mournful Iron Bells usher in sombre music, with Nikolay Didenko’s oaken-voiced bass mourning above the grieving choir: ‘Hear the funeral knell’. Yet there was a note of hope and defiance too. The movement, and the work, ended on a moving note of consolation. This ending, under Karabits, was absolutely glorious. A magnificent performance.

The major work in the first half of the concert was Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, emotionally stirring and dramatic. David Fray’s reading was confidently accomplished, finely expressive and polished, from his arresting entry in the opening movement, through the rapt beauty of Beethoven’s Largo central movement to the unbridled joy and merriment of the Rondo Finale.

A splendid concert and BBC Radio 3 listeners will have the opportunity to hear this concert on Friday 17th November.

Ian Lace

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