Conductor: Ben Gernon
This much-anticipated concert with a world premiere by Edward Gregson began with Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture from Romeo and Juliet. Following the plaintive intro with sweet subtle strings there was a sense of foreboding and melancholy, then an abrupt change of pace with short sharp stabs again from the strings and some vibrant percussion. The piece then simmered down to a softer tone but only to give way to a frantic, frenetic pace and for this there was energetic conducting from Ben Gernon who has a mastery and experience beyond his years. The ‘love interest’ theme drifted around the full orchestra passing from section to section with great effect, and as well as this tender passion there was a more robust use of percussion and brass with a vibrant dynamism. The softness ensuing from the woodwind soon spread to the strings before a crescendo for the finale and the audience really felt the full power of the orchestra as they played the theme with great agility.
The world premiere of Edward Gregson’s Oboe Concerto is based on Coleridge’s famous poem Kubla Khan, and the subtitle of the poem, A Vision in a Dream, gives the concerto its title. The intro consisted of the soloist, Jennifer Galloway’s oboe and contrapuntal percussion only. Her playing was lively and enchanting with an Eastern feel and was later echoed in the brass and strings as well as playing again with the contribution of the drums. The piece really brings the qualities of the poem to life and the theme is developed exquisitely on the oboe as well as the delightful accompaniment. Galloway is capable of maintaining long sustained notes as well as faster scales and held the audience’s attention completely. The piece has a hushed and quiet ending which partnered great writing from Gregson with a beautiful performance by the BBC Philharmonic.
The second half of the wonderful evening was made up of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. This consisted of a programme in five parts, namely: Dreams, Passions; A Ball; Scene in the Countryside; March to the Scaffold; and Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath. This is intended to depict an unrequited lovers’ opium dream with an idée fixe representing the thwarted passion, but despite this somewhat melancholic of themes there was a beautiful melody throughout which allowed the orchestra’s full flavour to come into its own including a lovely duet for oboes and expert use of timpani. This all fit the bill perfectly and Gernon, without baton this time, was masterful and wildly demonstrative in gesture.
Reviewed on 8th February 2020