The BSO polished its credentials as one of the most innovative of British orchestras with an intriguing opening night to its 2019/2020 season in the Lighthouse, Poole, on Wednesday.
‘Weimar Connections’ drew musical associations between composers linked with that German city and emphasised human relations established by Kirill Karabits’ tenure as General Music Director at the Staatskapelle and National Theatre.
The most important element of the evening was the first British performance of Vor hundert Jahren (100 Years Ago) by Franz Liszt. This work, written for a Schiller Festival in Weimar, has been unearthed, edited and prepared for performance for the first time since 1859 by Mr Karabits. The BSO did the work proud by re-creating the original tableaux with leading actors Sara Kestelman and Jemma Redgrave, supported by drama degree students from Arts University Bournemouth: Ruby Russell, Laura McKay and Jordan Finding. The dramatic conception was achieved by Gerard McBurney who conquered the problems of this mixed media experience effectively. No little part of this was a pictorial projection, designed by Chicago-based artist Mike Tutaj, lighting designed by Michael Fox and production designed by James Smith.
The performance was full of romantic power and certainly went a long way to emphasise Liszt’s pedigree as an orchestral as well as piano composer.
The evening also featured music by Mr Karabits’ great predecessor as principal conductor at Weimar: Richard Strauss. His gorgeous Rosenkavalier Suite gave the BSO the opportunity to flex its dancing muscles in the lush waltz themes extracted from the opera.
The polish on the orchestral sound reinforced the impression that the BSO is playing at the top of its game these days: opulent string tone, seductive woodwinds and glowing brass added up to a very powerful experience.
The evening had started with Johann Hummel’s Freundenfest Overture – a piece of fun composed by another Kapellmeister at Weimar to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The appearance of God Save the King as a tribute to Wellington and the British forces brought wry smiles to many faces in the Concert Hall.
This programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, so can be heard on BBC Sounds for 30 days. It is also to be repeated at Cadogan Hall in London on Friday – taking the good news of the BSO’s imaginative repertoire and dazzling performances far beyond the lucky residents of the South Coast.