Community reporter, Paul Valentine, reviews the recent Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) performance, Smooth Classics II, at Portsmouth Guildhall on 16th November 2018, conducted by Marta Gardolińska.
As someone who wants to find messages and story in music, I have never been keen on compilations, even for driving. So I arrived at the Guildhall in Portsmouth with a certain amount of trepidation. This diminished very quickly however, and for two reasons; the superb playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the excellent conducting of Marta Gardolińska.
From the very start the pace, control and delicacy of phrasing were a sheer delight. In fact I only had three negative thoughts in the whole of the first half; first that I so much wanted the fine pianist Anna Fedorova to burst into competition with the orchestra in the ‘allegro’ of Shostakovich’s piano concerto, second, that I would have loved to have listened to Elgar’s Nimrod originally programmed, if only to hear the magnificent control, balance and range that both conductor and orchestra were so capable of achieving. The third was just a moot point: that the French horns should not be part of the fine fabric of Satie’s Gymnopédie No 1, but a contrast of dull repetitive life amidst the rich beauty of Debussy’s fine orchestration.
There were so many stand out performances here; indeed, all of them were, but some stood out just a little more. The three concertos were utterly fabulous, particularly the Shostakovich with its rich phrasing – so clear and full of emotion, and the Emperor conducted with pathos and sincerity and played with eloquence and charm. The Dvorak Larghetto from the Serenade for Strings was beautifully led by Amyn Merchant and played with a rich academic intensity that showcased the lushness for which the BSO are rightly renowned.
Special mention also for an excellent rendition of the Ravel Pavane, played with ghostly reverence and magical charm.
For me however the clear winner for the evening was the Andante Cantabile from Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony. This is a wonderfully orchestrated piece, and consequently difficult to conduct but Gardolińska managed it with superlative ease; again showing remarkable skill to hold back from being sucked in by the emotional intensity, yet allowing the orchestra to demonstrate its remarkable power when answering the call of fate. The clarinet and especially the horn should be commended for their lyrical struggle in managing to stay independent of the rest of the orchestra.
Commendation is also due to the superb playing of Anna Fedorova in all the piano concertos. It really cannot be easy to change a mindset from Shostakovich to Mozart and Beethoven, but Anna completed with a magician’s ease; beautifully and without the slightest blemish.
After such a wonderful evening, my trepidation has turned to expectation and I, along with others I spoke to, can’t wait to hear the complete Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and, perhaps, a French impressionist concert – all of which I am sure that Marta Gardolińska would carry with brilliance, endeavour and sublime management in demonstrating the wonderful richness of the BSO.
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra programme continues at the Guildhall on 20th December with Last Night of the Christmas Proms. For more information and to see all forthcoming performances at the Guildhall, see their website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Main image credit: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Marta Gardolińska, BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association.