Review: BBC Philharmonic at the Royal Concert Hall

Words: Ian C Douglas
Friday 21 October 2022
reading time: min, words

Conjuring up some musical mischief with the BBC's Orchestra 


What could be a more magical start to a concert than The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the symphonic poem written by Paul Dukas in 1897? As the violins began to plink, many in tonight’s audience were no doubt replaying the Disney cartoon in their minds: Mickey Mouse’s battle with an army of bewitched brooms. And the BBC Philharmonic delivered those musical memories flawlessly.     

So, the evening was off to a good start. Next up was guest cellist, Zlatomir Fung, all the way from America. This 23-year-old is something of a rising star in the classical musical world. He is youngest ever musician to win First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition Cello Division. Since then, he has been delighting music lovers around the world with his virtuosity and undeniable prowess with the bow and strings. This performance was no exception. Zlatomir threw himself into Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor. Described on the TRCH’s web site as 'a poignant farewell to a world blown apart by the First World War’, Elgar composed this at a time when his work was losing public appeal.  The premiere in 1919 was a flop and the work was largely forgotten about. Then in the 1960s, Jacqueline Du Pré’s recording became an international hit, and it has been a popular choice ever since. It is fair to say the legendary Jacqueline Du Pré’s version is the definitive one. However, Zlatomir made the piece his own, throwing himself into a passionate rendition that had the auditorium hanging on his every quaver. Zlatomir came across as a likeable and emotive player and his segment was the highlight of the evening.  

A poignant farewell to a world blown apart by the First World War

As ever it was a concert of two halves, with William Walton’s Symphony Number One in B Flat minor filling up the second act. It is said that Walton wrote this during a time of great domestic upheaval, due to his relationship with not one but two women. His instructions for the second movement, for example is con malizia (with malice) and the third is con malinconia (with melancholy). Make up your own mind what went on there, or consult a biography. Not as instantly recognisable as the first act, nonetheless this was a sound performance that rose to a climatic fugue. And was, therefore, a good note to end on.

The BBC Philharmonic is based at Salford Quays and is very much a northern orchestra. Enough reason right there to support it. The guest conductor tonight was Ben Gernon, another rising star, who aged 33 is already making a name for himself. We look forward to seeing him in Nottingham again.

The BBC Philharmonic concert took place at the Royal Concert Hall on Thurs Oct 20th 2022.

Ian C Douglas

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