REVIEW: Fine BPO concert brings conflict to mind

Matthew Trusler. Picture by Sheila Rock
Matthew Trusler. Picture by Sheila Rock

Solo violinist Matthew Trusler caught the dissonance of war in his marvellously projected Britten Violin Concerto in D Minor at The Dome, Brighton, in the Remembrance Sunday concert.

The fighting that Britten had in mind was most probably the Spanish Civil War, but the music graphically reflected the tension and tragedy of any conflict.

The Timpani opening with gently sweeping strings of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra proved deceptive as the sweet tones of peace broke into taut moments of frustration.

Trusler took full advantage of the open spaces of Britten’s brilliant scoring to demonstrate his technical prowess, showing both tenderness and thrilling tautness as he answered the questions posed urgently by horns and woodwind.

Fiery without being too fierce, he captured the restless nature of the piece with a touch of quicksilver gypsy fireside soul. The orchestra gleefully accepted any chance of a rare melodic sweep amidst the jagged peaks of anxiety.

Growling basses and cellos and nimble violins powered the full force of the superb Stokowski arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The orchestra breathed new life into the piece, originally written of course for organ.

This was very much a team effort, with all the musicians contributing to the drama, while keeping alive the spirit of Bach’s intentions. Doomy brass, urgent tugs from strings, and delicate woodwind were all melted into the mix, brought to a beautiful close under conductor Barry Wordsworth.

Onslaught came early in the Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony Number 4, the danger of the disturbing opening bars with brass canons distilled clearly, while the strings soon gave a hint of its melodic current, enriched by echoes from woodwind. Vaughan Williams insisted he had not thought of war when writing this piece, but belligerent brass and basses stalking like marching boots the rhythm of the strings certainly suggested the maelstrom of misery that is warfare.

Technically the varied pieces kept the musicians extremely busy and the appreciative crowd got plenty of minims and crochets for their money.

A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody, with its beautifully-forlorn strings, was a suitably reflective piece, sensitively and thoughtfully played and a suitable tribute to composer George Butterworth, who died fighting in the First World War.The underlying mood of melancholy was well captured and the sense of lost potential summed up the central theme of a fine concert.

The next concert will be on December 3, with pieces by Elgar, Ravel and Rachmaninov.

Visit www.brightonphil.org.uk to find out more.

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