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After a three-year break, Philharmonic is ‘such a treat’

Bermuda Philharmonic practising for String Seranade (Photograph supplied)

As Kate Kayaian explained in her welcome to the audience, String Seranade marked Bermuda Philharmonic’s first concert in three years.

Consisting of string works from the 19th and 20th centuries, the ambitious, well executed and richly diverse programme offered a rich palette of musical form and emotive content.

First was Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 8 in D major. This piece was written when the composer was just 14 and already astonishing his teachers by his sure grasp of classical mid-18th century form. Appropriately, in the opening movement, the orchestra imparted the exuberance and sheer symphonic swagger of early Haydn. However, true to Mendelssohn’s intention, their interpretation of the andante was more measured and sober in the mood of Baroque composers such as Vivaldi.

In the third movement the players skilfully changed mood once again, letting rip with a frenetic gigue at blistering, Irish folk dance pace. The finale was once again reminiscent of Haydn at his most jovial and joyful.

George Walker’s 1942 Lyric for Strings was in complete contrast to the Mendelssohn. First violinist Breanna Thornton conducted the orchestra with great empathetic skill to bring out its nuanced emotions. Deeply elegiac and somehow reaching beyond grief to find comfort, even joy, this carefully controlled, slowly building adagio was a tribute to human resilience and the endurance of loving memory beyond mortality. Surely it was a fitting choice for our difficult times.

Gershwin’s 1928 An American in Paris, described by the composer as a “light, jolly piece” and not to be taken seriously by the “symphonic” listener, formed a mood change from serious to frivolous. The orchestra successfully evoked the bustle of a 1920’s Parisian crossroads, letting the audience hear Gershwin’s familiar phrases of jazz and blues mingling with sounds of the street.

Tchaikovsky’s 1880 Serenade for Strings in three movements was introduced by Kate Kayaian as being “between a quartet and a symphony”.

In the opening pezzo the orchestra adroitly played at full volume, bold, descending chords transitioning into a series of almost hymnlike, highly emotional statements. Agitated cellos then provided a transition to a ballet-like, caressing melody. Next came the valse, stately and formal, during which the orchestra played its novel rhythm, emphasising the third and first beats. The violins began the final allegretto with a gentle, contemplative melody. Suddenly the full orchestra struck up a rollicking folk dance halting only to restate the opening chords.

This was such a treat for the audience craving live music after such a long dearth caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s good we won’t have to wait as long for the Philharmonic’s next recital – it will be held in the autumn of this year.

String Serenade was performed by Bermuda Philharmonic on Sunday at St. John’s Church, Pembroke

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Published May 18, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated May 18, 2022 at 7:51 am)

After a three-year break, Philharmonic is ‘such a treat’

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