Bournemouth SO gives World Premiere of Turnage’s Testament


United KingdomUnited Kingdom Glière, Turnage, Prokofiev: Natalya Romaniw (soprano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 7.11.2018. (IL)

Mark Anthony Turnage, Natalya Romaniw & Kirill Karabits (l to r)

Glière – Sirènes
Turnage Testament (world premiere)
Prokofiev – War and Peace Symphonic Suite

Turnage’s new work, Testament, had its world premiere at this Lighthouse concert. Testament is dedicated to Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO). It was commissioned by the BSO and the Staatskapelle Weimar. Through discussions between composer and conductor, it was decided that the work should be related to Karabits’s homeland, the Ukraine. Commenting on his composition, Turnage has said: ‘I decided to write a score focused on themes of displacement, conflict and the particular political history of Ukraine which has often suffered oppression under the Russians…’ The work, cast in five movements, comprises settings of poems by three Ukrainian poets, beginning with Shevchenko’s Testament. Several Ukrainian folk songs underpin the work. Testament is scored for soprano soloist (singing the words in English) with an orchestra of triple wind, standard brass, timpani and extensive percussion, harp, piano doubling celesta, and strings.

The concert’s overall attendance was concentrated, attended mainly by the BSO’s core of dedicated subscribers, one guesses. However, the new work drew a very favourable response. Numerous people spoke to this reviewer with spontaneous enthusiasm which bodes well for the future of the work. This premiere was relatively low key. No recording, no broadcast. The composer was in attendance.

‘Testament’, the opening movement, is most impressive. The music, marked ‘Bell-like’ by the composer, is exactly that. It is mightily impressive – highly colourful thanks to the striking harmonies and orchestration. ‘Weep, sky, weep’, the second movement, is a poignant lament, ‘Summon the lion’, the third movement, springs forth defiantly and ends explosively. An interlude for the orchestra alone is an exquisite introspective piece. Finally, ‘Take What Matters’ deals with the present tensions in the Ukraine. The dedicatees, the BSO, gave a totally committed and fervent performance. Soprano Natalya Romaniw, sang with grace and conviction, colouring her voice according to the sentiments of each movement.

My own impression of Testament is positive, especially of the opening movement. I have to express personal reservations, though, for the final ‘Take What Matters’ movement. I felt that, although sympathetic to its intent and theme, it was, perhaps, a tad over-stated.

The concert stage had been set out for this concert from the start in a rather unusual format. The timpani were placed on the basic floor platform, to the right of the podium, alongside the double bases. The remainder of the percussion was positioned as usual on the platform above.

The concert opened with Glière’s Les Sirènes. His masterly orchestration skills served startlingly realistic evocations of the wave-swept sea bringing the hapless ship and its doomed crew (proud, horns with their bells aloft at one point before the sailors’ demise) towards the rocks and the fatal sensual allure of the sirens. Dramatically stirring and erotic stuff. Great fun.

The main work after the interval was the Symphonic Suite from Prokofiev’s opera, War and Peace, composed during and just after World War II and under the strict communist artistic strictures of the time. The suite was devised by the late Christopher Palmer who is best remembered for his work promoting English Music and Film Music. The Suite consists of Overture, ‘The Ball’, ‘Fanfare and Polonaise’, Waltz, Mazurka, ‘Intermezzo-May Night’, Finale, ‘Snowstorm’, ‘Battle’, and ‘Victory’. These movement titles are self-explanatory and cover moods and events of Tolstoy’s epic story succinctly enough. Much of the music consists of that for the dances in the famous ball scene. The ‘Intermezzo-May Night’ is beautifully, passionately romantic but tinged with restraint and a sense of impending catastrophe. This music was played by more than one lady in the orchestra’s strings – especially the second violin’s with exceptional feeling. The ‘Battle’ music and ‘Victory’ music were inspirational and again performed with the utmost zeal.

Truly, a night to remember – a most rewarding concert with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on top form. Bravo!

Ian Lace


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month