Bath Philharmonia: Bath Abbey
Charles Ives' imaginative spoof on the hymn America – known in this country as God Save the Queen – is full of quirky twists and turns.
I particularly like the doleful minor key variation and its noisy syncopation is great fun, played here with lively panache. In complete contrast, Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales is a remarkable series of contrasting harmonies and tone colours, animated and busy, then tranquil and restful by turns, with a note of wistful longing never far away.
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Cordelia Williams found exactly the right balance of intimacy and extroversion in a performance full of perceptive insight.
Another contrast brought us Rhapsody in Blue, jazzy and full of big, bold brass – sometimes a touch over dominant – and the familiar tunes so typical of Gershwin.
It needs a combination of adventurous freedom and musical discipline which is not easy to capture and this rendering, immaculately played by Cordelia Williams leaned perhaps towards discipline rather than freedom – throwing caution to the winds and going for it. But it is a hugely enjoyable piece, full of musical delights and that enjoyment certainly came across to an enthusiastic audience.
Dvorak's Symphony No 9, from the New World, is deservedly an orchestral favourite and this outing had tremendous impact.
Conductor Jason Thornton didn't need a score and his understanding of the essential unity of the piece, as it moves through all the well-known movements, gave it a wholeness, while allowing all its melodic fluency and variety of invention to develop.
The brass, of course, have a lot to do, alongside the timps and percussion: but the oboe solo in the Largo was quite ravishing and the strings gave the whole work a feeling of confident discernment. Above all the performance had energy and life, allied to poignancy and a hint of yearning, as it brought together the new world and the old. An outstanding recreation of a great symphony.
Peter Lloyd Williams