Bermuda Festival Orchestra highights local talent
With so many familiar faces among the orchestra and the audience, the programme presented on Friday and Saturday by the Bermuda Festival Orchestra seemed like an intimate concert for friends and invited guests.
The gathering appeared for the sheer pleasure of sharing beautiful music, with any minor lapses readily forgiven by a supportive audience.
Programme notes and humorous comments were made by conductor Ryan Ellis; soloist Kerri-Lynne Dietz introduced the songs she sang even those unfamiliar with the pieces had much to look forward to as the orchestra raised their instruments to play the first note.
The programme explored “the evolution of the 19th century orchestra into a larger ensemble with greater dramatic effect and more contrasting sounds to portray the passion, adventure and poetry in their music”. Under this chronological umbrella, the theme linking the selections was “heroes, heroism, hunters and (struggling to find further alliteration) passionate lovers”.
It also highlighted local talent not in the spotlight often enough for my liking.
Opening the programme literally and chronologically was the overture to Beethoven's only opera, 'Fidelio', also known as 'Leonore'.
The orchestra ably captured the beauty and dramatic power of the piece named after the heroine of the story. It tells the tale of a woman who goes to great lengths and exposes herself to great danger to rescue her husband, a political prisoner.
Following “the galloping rhythms and soaring melodies” of the overture, Miss Dietz' performance of the sweet, refreshing love song 'Villanelle' from Berlioz' song cycle 'Les nuits d'été' was exquisite. The delight of young love in spring was beautifully expressed, conveying the 'joie de vivre' but also the flirtatious undercurrents of quivering lilies-of-the-valley, mossy banks and entwining fingers.
The second Berlioz selection, the march from 'La damnation de Faust' continued the light-hearted feel in the opening phrases before the ominous rumbles of darker threats announced the approach of a distant army. Marching to glory with brass and percussion, it finished with a triumphant flourish.
Again Miss Dietz' gorgeous rendition of 'Morgen' by Richard Strauss shifted the mood and focus from martial prowess to personal intimacy. The opening bars of this love song express an aching passion conveyed with exquisite delicacy by Charles Knight's violin. Intertwined with Miss Dietz' beautiful voice, the combination provided a perfect expression of blissful love.
The first half of the programme closed with the exciting and challenging 'Horn Concerto' written by Richard Strauss for his father, but which his father never played. The concerto, allowed Kent Hayward to display his skill and the range of the beautiful French Horn. It carried one through the rural landscape behind the hunting party and ended with the audience breathless, and captivated by Mr Hayward's ability to make his instrument sing in rich, bright tones.
The second half of the concert opened with two selections from Elgar. The first, the ever-popular and moving 'Nimrod' from 'Enigma Variations', was offered in tribute to the late Bill Duncan for his contributions to our musical community.
The purity of sound and depth of emotion conveyed by Miss Dietz in her rendition of the second Elgar selection, 'Where Corals Lie' from 'Sea Pictures', revealed just how far her talent has developed. She followed this with a sweet 'Baïlèro' from Joseph Canteloube's 'Chants d'Auvergne'.
All this led up to what for many was the main event: Oliver Grant's performance of the passionate and powerful 'Piano Concerto No. 2' by Rachmaninov. That we have here in our midst a musician who can rise to the standard demanded of a Rachmaninov concerto is truly a blessing. This was an outstanding performance by a very talented musician and many of the audience showed their appreciation of the gift they had been given by rising to their feet in an enthusiastic ovation.
Thus concluded a delightfully intimate evening of guests and acquaintances sharing beautiful music. The fact that many of the performers were teachers who spend their time and energy encouraging the talent of others in addition to perfecting their own performance, demonstrates huge dedication to their art for which we must be very grateful.