Composers: John Adams, Igor Stravinsky, Hector Berlioz
Conductor: Philip Mackenzie
Reviewer: Marina Spark
It is a balmy summer evening on which the Amadeus Orchestra arrive at the historic Exeter Cathedral. In conjunction with Exeter Northcott Theatre, this summer concert brings three great orchestral pieces into the heart of Devon and one of the county’s iconic landmarks.
The Amadeus Orchestra’s youthful vivacity brings a renewed vigour to these incredible pieces. The concert features John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. All pieces are firm favourites of the established orchestral audience and the Amadeus Orchestra add a sense of dynamism to the pieces.
Opening with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, probably the most well-known piece of the night, the Amadeus Orchestra immediately captures the audience’s attention and imagination. Rapid crescendo, sudden silence, and skilfully syncopated melodies make this piece unforgettable. This incredibly dramatic piece contours up stark images of conflict, life, and dance. Fans of Disney will well recall the famous dinosaur scene from Fantasia featuring The Rite of Spring, however, it is pagan ritual and human sacrifice that inspired Stravinsky in this work. The conflict between death and rebirth and the essential cycle of nature really come through in this piece and the Orchestra do a sublime job of capturing the emotion of the story.
French composer Berlioz’s surreal Symphonie Fantastique opens the second act. The classic piece tells the story of an imaginative artist suffering from unrequited love and poisoning himself with opium. The dreamlike quality to the score captures the artist’s opium-fuelled fantasy, being inspired by the composers own unrequited love and alleged use of the substance.
John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine is the most contemporary of the evening’s entertainment, having been composed in 1986. This modern piece takes the audience on unexpected journeys of melody and contrasting rhythms. The composer’s use of minimalism comes through throughout the piece with various instruments having short bursts of solos or duets. Adams’ inspiration of a rapid, and not necessarily pleasant ride in a sports car, comes through clearly.
Philip Mackenzie conducts with a commanding presence and helps to guide the incredibly skilled musicians through the three complex pieces. His clear yet subtle gestures bring together the large and diverse orchestra seated on many levels throughout the cathedral. Mackenzie is ably supported by orchestra leader Madeline Pickering.
This is an excellent evening of orchestral entertainment and a must-see for fans of orchestral music. For those who have not been to an orchestral concert before these complex pieces may not be the best introduction.
Runs until 20 July 2018 | Image: Contributed