Strong Elgar theme at opening concert of BPO’s new season

Barry Wordsworth. Picture by David Gerrard, 2016
Barry Wordsworth. Picture by David Gerrard, 2016

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, Brighton Dome, Sunday, October 14

Judging by the number of empty seats at the Dome on Sunday it would appear the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s choice of music for its opening concert of the 94th season was not widely acclaimed.

But if that was the case it was a great pity for those who missed it.

Certainly much of the music resonated with me and none more so than the fourth and final offering from Sir Edward Elgar. It was new to me but the six movements of his Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands were an absolute delight and it was easy to see why they were inspired by memorable holidays with his wife Alice at the Villa Bader between 1893 and 1897.

The strong Elgar theme to the opening concert was down to the recent recordings of some of his lesser played works by the BPO’s conductor laureate Barry Wordsworth and the Brighton Festival Chorus, who this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

With the massed ranks of the BFC – although not at full capacity – and a large BPO sharing the stage it is always an impressive sight and together they did full justice to the choral pieces, that opened with the majestic Zadok The Priest by Handel and continued with three works by Elgar, Great is the Lord (Psalm 48) and O Hearken Thou preceding the joyous Bavarian inspired piece.

The concert opened with Shostakovich’s rousing Festive Overture and the first half also included Hubert Parry’s From Death to Life commissioned for the Brighton Music Festival in 1914.

Completing the somewhat mixed programme was Elgar’s popular Cockaigne Overture that opened the second half.

Having missed out once already, surely the next two BPO concerts should prove more popular with audiences, with gifted pianist Freddy Kempf the soloist and director for Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 and Dvorak’s Symphony No 7 on Sunday, November 11, and then followed on December 2 by the eagerly awaited return of conductor Ben Gernon as the gifted Tamsin Waley-Cohen plays Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 in between the Austrian giant’s Symphony No 35 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.

Personally, I can’t wait.

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