BSO unveils new artist in residence

Stravinsky        Pulcinella Suite (1949)
Walton              Cello Concerto
Shostakovich  Symphony No 1

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amyn Merchant
Kirill Karabits: Conductor
Johannes Moser: Cello

THE latest in the line of distinguished holders of the BSO’s artist in residence post was unveiled last night at the Lighthouse.  He is the 39-year-old German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser.  This is no up-and-coming youngster, but an established international soloist at the peak of his powers, who has performed with most of the world’s leading symphony orchestras.  Moser will give a recital of music by Prokofiev and Rachmaninov in the Lighthouse on February 6th, and on May 1st will play the Haydn concerto and a suite by the contemporary American composer Jonathan Leshnoff.  On the strength of last night’s passionate performance of William Walton’s Cello Concerto, these dates need urgently to be added to your diary if they’re not there already.

The Walton concerto dates from 1957, a time when Walton’s music was somewhat out of fashion.  It is a rather introspective and meditative work which uses to the full the soulful and passionate sound of the instrument – in this case a superbly mellow 1694 Guarneri.  The thematic material is striking and memorable enough to grab and keep one’s attention, and Walton develops it with never-failing ingenuity and originality, using a large orchestra in a restrained way to provide colour rather than volume.  Moser communicated his love of the music powerfully and cemented a warm relationship with the well-filled hall in his encore piece, the meditative sarabande from Bach’s G major cello suite.

We had been warmed up for the Walton by a performance of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite from the 1920s.  This re-orchestration of music from the eighteenth century saw Stravinsky discovering the neoclassical style which was so important in the early to mid twentieth century – we heard its influence, for example in the Shostakovich symphony played after the interval. The audience was spellbound and rapt in its attention to Karabits’s loving performance, revelling in the originality of the orchestration in a small chamber orchestra.  The leaders of the string sections enjoyed their opportunities to display their prowess as soloists in the concertino sections, as did Kevin Morgan on trombone.  A joyful performance.

After the interval Karabits was very much on his home turf in a performance of Shostakovich’s original and precocious first symphony, dating from 1926 when the composer was a mere lad of nineteen.  As in the Walton, a big orchestra is used with restraint and teeming inventiveness.  The music is clearly influenced by both the romantic heritage of the Russian nineteenth century and Stravinsky’s neoclassicism, but it’s still 100% Shostakovich.  Outstanding solo contributions came from Owain Bailey on flute and Max Mausen on clarinet.

All through the evening the BSO had been on top form, and to round it all off Karabits and the orchestra gave us an encore – Shostakovich’s Tahiti Trot.  This is a re-orchestration of the popular song ‘Tea for Two’ written for a 100-rouble bet in 45 minutes by Shostakovich in 1927.  It’s a kind of throwaway four minute concerto for orchestra, with mini-solos from practically everyone, and certainly sent us home with smiles on our faces.

You can hear this concert for yourself when the BSO and Moser play it for the fourth and final time at The Anvil, Basinstoke on Saturday 1st December at 7.45pm.  It will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 and broadcast on Monday 10th December at 7.30pm.

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