Philharmonic showcases the familiar and recently discovered
Rediscovering the Classics was a richly textured, diverse, carefully balanced mix of the familiar and the recently discovered.
Breanna Thornton gave succinct and expert introductions to each piece which guided our listening and deepened our appreciation. Under her empathetic and lively conducting the Bermuda Philharmonic musicians did us all proud, with flawless performances, tight teamwork and powerful dynamics.
First up was Symphony No 2 by the Black French 18th century aristocrat, expert swordsman and violin virtuoso, Joseph Bologne, also known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
The symphony started with a lively allegro, a call and response between treble and bass, which brought to mind the early Haydn.
A more serious and wistful middle movement was immediately followed by a tightly constructed, joyous finale in triple time which closed the work with a burst of energy.
Dr Thornton then relinquished her conductor’s baton for her violin and invited viola soloist Ryan Beauchamp to join her in the first movement of Mozart’s 1779 Sinfonia Concertante.
I think for many of us it was the first time we heard a live performance of this much-loved composition.
Dr Thornton pointed out that Mozart used the interplay between the solo instruments as if they were protagonists in an opera.
And her interaction with Dr Beauchamp became emotionally complex, especially when they competed in cadenzas of gathering complexity and speed.
The viola was actually a favourite instrument of Mozart and the Sinfonia Concertante is considered as his attempt to showcase its capabilities; Dr Beauchamp’s complete mastery of the instrument did exactly that for us.
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was another name that was new to me. She was a virtuoso pianist and composer who was the first female to hold the position of Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory of Music.
The orchestra rendered her Melodie as an intensely lyrical, almost hymnlike piece. This deep romanticism made me think of Schumann’s lieder accompaniments which were written at the same time.
Why didn’t Schubert ever complete his 8th symphony, called Unfinished? Dr Thornton thought there were many possible reasons, some exotic, others banal.
It certainly wasn’t his last work, having been written some six years before his death. It is most probable that he just didn’t get around to it. But the two completed movements that we do have are, in her words, “textbook picture perfect”.
And under her baton, our Philharmonic orchestra perfectly delivered these to us.
In the first movement, the bass instruments played a recurring, brooding melody reminiscent of the opening bars of Verdi’s Traviata, but much darker.
Throughout, Beethoven-like orchestral hits and tremolo strings punctuated the work and built tension and excitement.
In the second movement, andante con moto, woodwind, brass and timpani came into their own, punctuating a ¾ march with massive orchestral hits, the whole gradually fading to an otherworldly string finale.
We are fortunate indeed to have such a concentration of musical talent, know how and skilled players who make up the Bermuda Philharmonic.
The Bermuda Philharmonic’s concert, Rediscovering the Classics, was performed on Sunday at St John’s Church
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