Tradition with a twist.
This Easter-inspired evening at Lighthouse, Poole, led by David Hill with the Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, presented an attractive blend of well-known favourites with some rarities and old works in new clothes.
The Russian Easter Festival Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov rapidly brought the concert up to speed, with its moody and sombre opening giving way to general rejoicing. Lovely playing all round the orchestra also brought life to Coleridge-Taylor’s Solemn Prelude. David Hill has been much involved in returning this accomplished work to the concert platform from the British Library archives, where it was hidden after its premiere in Worcester in 1899. A great find and very much worth hearing.
Mr Hill has also orchestrated Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn, allowing it to claim life beyond its original church anthem setting. The Chorus were in fine voice, not least in the blend and accuracy achieved in the gentle central section.
Another new take on a firm favourite was offered in the performance by the brilliant British bass-baritone Božidar Smiljanić of Richard Strauss’s Morgen! Normally a great soprano showpiece, its profound feeling was exquisitely conveyed in the darker hues of the deeper voice, match perfectly with the soulful violin of Amyn Merchant.
The first half of the concert was completed with the Good Friday Music from Parsifal by Wagner. The orchestra captured all its rolling, prayer-like themes and motifs with a hint of swagger that was entirely appropriate to the grandeur of the conception. Touching solos emerged throughout, but a particular mention for the woodwind principals would be appropriate.
After the interval the single work was the much-loved Requiem by Fauré. The Chorus and Orchestra were again joined by Mr Smiljanić and, taking the soprano role, Alison Ponsford-Hill: he commandingly pleading in the Libera Me, she sweet and consoling in the Pie Jesu.
It was a treat to hear such a committed and carefully-prepared performance. Gavin Carr’s thoughtful rehearsal of the Chorus was evident throughout in many telling details while the orchestral colour added hugely to the experience, so respect to all, most specifically again to Amyn Merchant and to the ever-busy violas.
David Hill’s visits to the BSO always bring something special – the final In Paradisum providing a wonderfully evocative Easter benediction.
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