Brighton Festival –  London Symphony Orchestra, Bertrand Chamayou (piano), Sir Antonio Pappano (conductor)

Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’ seemed a strange choice to launch a Festival, but I’m not complaining. Its warmth and serenity doesn’t always need be doleful. On this occasion it was as imposing as the plush curtain of the opera house, to be raised with due ceremony, and the full sound of the LSO strings was as grand as any brass fanfare.

Bertrand Chamayou

Bertrand Chamayou

There was then a rather long pause while the piano was brought on and the stage was reset before the helter-skelter excitement of Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto. Bertrand Chamayou brought an extraordinary vigour to his playing and the orchestra responded in kind. Even through the stately Adagio the atmosphere was electric. How could he hammer the keyboard so delicately? It’s one of those concertos where the urge to applaud after each movement is very strong, so the thunder that followed the Presto finale was tremendous, the Dome being so full.


Sir Antonio Pappano

Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony is not as brash or as immediately exciting as the Ravel but this is where Pappano’s skill, perhaps his operatic sensibility, showed best. He held the music in check while he built up those extended Romantic surges that kept his audience entranced and drew appreciative smiles from his players. The same sumptuous string sound that made the Barber so beautiful was now even richer and more full of emotion. Pappano himself was a blur of activity. His energy seemed to increase with each movement until the climactic finish. The applause was even louder and longer than before, resulting in a happy encore of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Russian Dance’ from ‘The Nutcracker’. This concert made a splendid opening for the 2024 Brighton Festival and there is plenty more music to come.

Brighton Dome Concert Hall,
4 May 2024


Andrew Connal

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