BPO – Towards the Light – Joanna MacGregor (conductor/piano), Ruth Rogers (violin), Peter Adams (cello)
Completing a triumphant season of concerts, this programme began in serene mode with Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, a musical consolation commemorating the bleak years of Covid. Nicky Sweeney, Co-Leader of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, kept a strict tempo as Barber’s plaintive theme was passed between the parts. Without a conductor up front, the players were especially attentive to each other, like a grand ensemble of soloists. It was their special moment.
On the 196th anniversary of Beethoven’s death, three of the orchestra’s regular soloists came forward with his Triple Concerto Op.56, the violin of Ruth Rogers, Principal cellist Peter Adams and the Music Director Joanna MacGregor bringing it all together at the piano. The familiar bond between all the players came across in the playing. Rogers and Adams, having excelled in last month’s Bach concert, now expressed their Classical virtuosity to great effect and MacGregor maintained a thrilling pace, so much so that the audience burst into extended applause after the first movement. It’s a rare orchestra that has such soloists ‘in house’.
The ‘Emperor’ concerto, or to give it its proper title Beethoven’s Concerto No.5 Op.73, now with the performers in their usual places, made a splendid climax to the whole season. This work is always a great occasion and when played with such delicacy and force then it is overwhelming. As in the previous work, Joanna MacGregor’s performance was still at one with the other players, commanding, sensitive, larger than life. She has a connection that any visiting virtuoso would find very hard to achieve. At her best in what her programme notes call the ‘music box’ sequences, with the precision and strength of an Olympic athlete she held back to built a delicate, elegant tension that gave extra impetus and thrill to the exultant passages.
The Dome was full. Young, old, and full-voiced students, a happy mix of ages which ensured warm and extended applause, and augurs well for future seasons.
26 March 2023