Tuesday, October 19

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra – Young Apollo – Joanna MacGregor (piano-conductor), Thomas Gould (leader)

- September 27, 2021

A change of Music Director brings fresh talent, different experiences, distinct style; now add the charisma of a guest concert-master (taking over from the splendid John Bradbury); factor in months of Covid-induced delay and we had such high expectations. Were they met? Oh yes, and more than I could imagine!

Britten’s ‘Young Apollo’ was the perfect flourish to open this new era of the BPO. It immediately grabs your attention as the insistent strings compete with wildly florid scales on the piano that turn into thrilling glissandi and surprising chord progressions, before galloping off in a jolly rush. Then there’s a tender pause, that still moment before the jubilant, emphatic ending. This brilliantly dramatic work was a grand statement of intent, proclaiming the end of lockdown and the arrival of the BPO’s dynamic new Music Director.

Joanna MacGregor took a calm moment to introduce her first piano concerto, Mozart’s ravishing E Flat Major K271 ‘Jeunehomme’, a delicious contrast to the Britten. She asked us to listen out for the wind solos, modestly saying that her part was just decoration! Well, you can tell something special is happening when the strings lean forward, listening and smiling during the cadenzas. MacGregor later confessed they were her own extemporised contribution. This is world-class musicianship.

After the interval came MacGregor’s exhilarating arrangements of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, when she shared the spotlight with virtuoso guest leader Thomas Gould. Together they stoked the excitement and were clearly enjoying the vibrant Argentine rhythms and unconventional playing techniques of ‘Michelangelo 70’ and ‘Libertango’. In between was the joyously laid-back ‘Milonga del Angel’ for piano and double-bass (Stephen Warner) whose sensuous glissando at the end was very dignified.

More Mozart followed, the ever-popular C Major Concerto K467 ‘Elvira Madigan’, with freshly improvised cadenzas. The Classical poise and clarity provided a reassuring conclusion to the concert without losing any of the excitement. Sunday afternoons have been quiet for too long. The well-spaced audience applauded well above its weight. Such enthusiastic and sustained cheers were a fitting climax to such a revitalizing event!

CODA: The Dome is still in Covid cautious mode, with barriers, masks and screens etc. but this doesn’t spoil the show.

Dome Concert Hall
26 September 2021
Rating: ★★★★★
Andrew Connal


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1 comment

  1. October 2, 2021 by Neil Harvey

    Excellent concert. But how sad to see the Dome only 25% full. Please support Joanna MacGregor and the Brighton Philharmonic.

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