tue 12/11/2019

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff | reviews, news & interviews

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

Noisy Vaughan Williams symphony is a Royal College of Music period piece

David Atherton: Excellent, undemonstrativeAskonas Holt
It’s a neat-sounding idea for a concert: a sequence of works composed in the year the previous composer died. Neat, but not necessarily revealing. This one started with Elgar’s Cockaigne, composed – symbolically, I assume – in 1900, and ended with Vaughan Williams’s Fourth Symphony, completed in 1934, the year of Elgar’s death. In between came Britten’s Nocturne, written in VW’s last year, 1958. With a little more time, they might have added Birtwistle’s Melancolia (1976, Britten), and left everyone completely bemused.

Their playing had all the necessary impact, and the lady next to me nearly jumped out of her skin on a couple of occasions

Share this article


Can't agree with that judgment of Vaughan Williams's Fourth. Sometimes dissonance can be exultant, as in Bartok's Fourth String Quartet, and though this symphony isn't perhaps quite on that level, it always gives me a buzz when I hear it. And are performances so frequent that we can just rule it out? Ah well, your opinion, I guess.

I make it a point of never responding to reviews of my performances and I'm certainly not going to object to Stephen's thoughtful piece. However, when I'm misquoted, as happened in the spoken introduction, I must reply. What I actually said was that, "within VW's output, the harmonic language used by the composer was forward-looking". Compare Syms 1-3. True, the last movement makes one wish that he'd never heard of fugato and the musical ideas are somewhat paltry; nevertheless I feel it is a much stronger work than is suggested above.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.