UK Premier for Penderecki at The Lighthouse

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra leader Amyn Merchant
Kirill Karabits: Conductor
Akiko Suwanai: Violin

Krzysztof PendereckiBEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No.3
PENDERECKI: Symphony No.4 “Adagio”
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto
THE BSO has a proud historical record of UK premiers of works by composers of the stature of Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. This tradition was maintained at the Lighthouse with the first British performance of the eminent Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s 4th Symphony. Now in his eighties, the former enfant terrible of mid-twentieth-century modernism changed his style in the 1980s to embrace the language of traditional tonal western music both in structure and in tone. His 4th Symphony was demanding listening, but fully accessible to anyone familiar with, for example, Britten or Shostakovich.

Karabits prefaced the performance by reading a letter from the composer regretting his absence and expressing full confidence in the abilities of ‘maestro Karabits’ and the orchestra to give us a worthy account of his score. His confidence was certainly not misplaced, with the orchestra relishing the opportunity to do the symphony full justice. It was composed in 1989 to commemorate the 200thanniversary of the French Revolution. ‘Commemorate’ rather than ‘celebrate’: as the subtitle “Adagio” suggests, the music is predominantly slow and meditative, and often sombre and brooding. The performance was taut, alert and focused throughout its uninterrupted half-hour, with a range of outstanding contributions from soloists in the orchestra. Dark orchestral colours predominate, with the violas having a particular prominence within the strings and extended solo passages for cor anglais and bassoon. In the percussion section, we were treated to the sound of a large battery of rototoms, tuned drums more frequently used in rock music, and yet more tonal variety was added by three off-stage trumpets.

The reception from a reasonably full house was warm and enthusiastic. The BSO’s management is to be congratulated for such bold and imaginative programming. There is plenty of support for contemporary music in concerts by Kokoro and special events such as Composers Day on February 28th:. Let us hope that the success of this performance encourages them to give us more music by living composers in the main Wednesday night concerts.

The evening was topped and tailed with Beethoven. As an opener, we were treated to an immaculately prepared and shaped Leonore No. 3. Given the rehearsal time the Penerecki must have taken, this was a credit to the orchestra’s unwaveringly high standards. After the interval, the ever-popular Violin Concerto was given a fascinating and moving performance by the Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanai, which emphasised the ethereal, wistful, melancholic aspects of the work with outstanding grace and tonal purity.


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