BPO – Season Finale – Joanna MacGregor (piano), Sian Edwards (conductor)
What a climax! The BPO season ended as it began with surprises, vigour and joyous promises for the future. Concerts rarely open with such emotionally charged works as Myroslav Skoryk’s gentle ‘Melodie’, a wistful, repeating theme arranged for string orchestra that is rich with cascades of plaintive suspensions. It was dedicated to Joanna MacGregor’s Ukrainian music students. Versions are being played all over Europe and they beautifully illustrate the culture that war-torn country is striving to preserve.
Elgar’s ‘Introduction and Allegro for Strings’ matched the mood of the afternoon. Elgar, it seems, was invoking the Welsh border lands that he loved. Sian Edwards maintained this element of nostalgia without tipping into any cloying sentimentality. This confident, uplifting work brought the quartet of soloists to the fore, particularly the Leader, Eugene Lee and Principal Viola Caroline Harrison, with Principal Second Violin Kathy Shave and Principal Cello Peter Adams.
The first half of the concert was completed by Mozart’s final symphony No. 41, ‘Jupiter’. The BPO, now a full Classical orchestra, was striding forward with a healthy swagger after all the constraints, delays and heartbreak of Covid.
The concerto usually comes before the symphony in a concert programme. Perhaps this is just to let the soloist catch an early train home. This afternoon Brahms’ youthful Piano Concerto No. 1 needed to stand alone in the second half. The BPO was now a complete Romantic orchestra in collaboration with its dynamic Music Director, Joanna MacGregor. This impassioned work takes the audience through moments of explosive grandeur and the sweetest tenderness. MacGregor’s strength and virtuosity were well matched by the orchestra. It was exhilarating and exhausting, a musical tour de force. In the reception afterwards she promised more of the same in the 2022-23 season – I can’t wait!
Dome Concert Hall
27 March 2022