A British conductor leading a Scottish orchestra in a night of English music… doesn’t sound too badJohn Wilson is certainly one name I always look out for in any programme and schedule. To see him conduct another orchestra rather than his own seemed too much of a good opportunity to let pass by. Having heard the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on various ocassions before knew this only could be a brilliant night ahead.
Vaughan Williams 9th Symphony started the programme off. I am ashamed to admit that other than Lark Ascending I haven’t listened to much of his music – maybe the odd piece on the radio but certainly not someone whose music I look out for. It is remarkable to think that the piece was only completed a mere 60 years ago. It was a delight to see some saxophones in the orchestra – I love the extra texture they add to the music. The beginning has a certain mystical quality to it and seems a little more nordic. Only a few bars in it shines through that there is an English composer at work. It was Vaughan Williams’ last symphony and there is a certain sense of mourning coming through which gives it a beautiful melodic quality. The 3rd movement Scherzo: Allegro Pesante has a lovely playful character with a hint of something darker – especially here the brass, woodwind with saxophones and of course percussion are just spectacular. The moods are ever changing and it keeps it interesting because you never know what the next bar will bring. No doubt this symphony is hugely complex as it is a little away from the English idyll and perfectionism that is typical for British composers. A very intriguing discovery for me!
As mentioned the evening stayed on this lovely island – Gustav Holst’s The Planet filled the second half. Yet another piece that I have listened to in excerpts but don’t know as a whole, let alone from a live performance. So I was very excited to finally get to hear it in one of the best concert spaces with a fantastic atmosphere. Wilson was quoted in the programme notes saying: “I’ve performed The Planets quite a lot and I never do it the same way twice. Before the concert, I don’t know what I’m going to do. That’s completely intentional – I don’t know what I’m going to do until the night itself. We rehearse it well, of course, but for the concert itself it has to be completely spontaneous” Quite a statement which got me even more excited! Mars rolled into the hall and the journey though out of space began – and what an experience it was! Never quite realised the sheer force of these planets… Sitting in my usual choir seats and not realising that an organ was part of the planets as well – I know, might sound like a novice here – I was absolutely stunned by Mars. As the organ suddenly came in with full force I just had goosebumps – just thinking about it makes my hairs stand up again. The intensity of the BBC SSO was so driven that I got a little emotional. As the Bringer of War this particular movement is also a little poignant in current times and there certainly was an aggressiveness in the play which made it really come to life. I won’t be going into detail with every single one of the planets but it is safe to say that we went onto a right odyssey into space! What a night!!