Monday, December 6

BPO – Great Baroque: Playing with Fire – Robert Howarth (harpsichord/conductor)

- November 8, 2021

What an amazing programme! A feast of Baroque favourites that showcased the talent and versatility of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra soloists. John Ellwood (trumpet), Christine Messiter (flute), Alun Darbyshire (oboe) and guest leader Ruth Rogers (violin) thrilled us with Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto, each part clear and none of them overpowering. Soprano Ruby Hughes sang arias by Purcell and Handel, with continuo cello from Peter Adams and Robert Howarth conducting from the harpsichord.

Ruby Hughes

Ruth Rogers led the strings in a breath-taking rendition of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’. Her communication with the other players and the audience was a delight and her smile showed just how much she revelled in this return to the concert platform.

After the interval we enjoyed the vigour of Vivaldi’s ‘Storm at Sea’ concerto for flute, oboe and bassoon (Jonathan Price). Then Ruby Hughes duetted with John Ellwood’s stratospheric trumpet in Handel’s exultant aria ‘Let the bright Seraphim’. The addition of four French Horns, more trumpets and oboes, an extra bassoon and timpani made for a rousing finale with Handel’s ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’.

The most interesting of all the works this afternoon began the concert, the extraordinary ‘Chaos’ from Jean-Féry Rebel’s ballet suite ‘Les Élémens’. The shocking crash of the opening chord was followed by an insistent pulse from the strings that was penetrated by decorative phrases from the woodwind soloists, with the piccolo (Debbie Davis) cutting through most heroically, dissipating the chaotic discords.

Robert Howarth

Robert Howarth’s witty and informal introductions made it easy to understand and enjoy the works. Even with all these illustrious soloists the atmosphere was relaxed, and greatly enhanced by the unexpected contribution of the BPO’s Music Director herself, Joanna MacGregor, who acted as host and stage-manager, cheerfully rearranging the platform and music-stands between works. It felt like a musical party.

Dome Concert Hall
7 November 2021
Rating: ★★★★½
Andrew Connal

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