Colourful Walton and Icily Majestic Sibelius from Van Steen and the Bournemouth SO

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Wagner, Walton, Sibelius: Quirine Viersen (cello), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/ Jac van Steen (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole 20.4.2016. (IL)

Wagner: Tannhäuser Overture
Walton: Cello Concerto
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major

Billed in the Bournemouth SO concert season brochure as a programme of ‘Fire & Ice’, this concert certainly lived up to that description commencing with a fiery reading of Wagner’s popular Tannhäuser Overture. Van Steen presented a dangerously sensual Venusberg, a slithery sensual honey trap contrasted with fervent spirituality as projected by processing pilgrims.

Walton’s Cello Concerto  – performed by a conductor and soloist from the Netherlands, was commissioned by renowned cellist, Piatigorski, living in California and composed by an Englishman residing in the brilliant Mediterranean light of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. Walton considered it to be the best of his three string concertos and this performance certainly made a persuasive case for his assertion. Quirine Viersen’s reading was restrained and refined, her subtle shading nicely conveying the prevailing sense of gentle nostalgia. Yet my ear was continually seduced away to Walton’s magnificent writing for the orchestra with its extraordinary effects and colourful orchestrations especially for the percussion section that requires vibraphone, xylophone, celesta and castanets etc.

The Bournemouth strings and brass were on top form through Sibelius’s potent Second Symphony.  Steen’s reading vividly evoked the Finnish landscape, its forests and lakes, bathed in sunshine and gripped in icy wintry blizzards together with hints of trolls and other mythical hostiles in the shadows. That grandiose finale sounded magnificent and one could easily be persuaded that it was meant to be associated with Finland’s struggle for independence.

A very satisfying concert.

Ian Lace



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