sun 07/08/2022

Cooper, Bournemouth SO, Wigglesworth, Lighthouse, Poole review – musical sunbursts | reviews, news & interviews

Cooper, Bournemouth SO, Wigglesworth, Lighthouse, Poole review – musical sunbursts

Cooper, Bournemouth SO, Wigglesworth, Lighthouse, Poole review – musical sunbursts

Vivacious teamwork in Dove, Mozart and Schubert

Imogen Cooper playing Mozart in Poole

With reference to smiles beginning to emerge from behind our masks, Mark Wigglesworth, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s new Principal Guest Conductor, wrote the most hopeful and optimistic note of welcome in the programme for this concert featuring Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 22, K482 and Schubert's “Great” C major Symphony.

Given the dramatically darkened world context since writing his note, the conductor’s hope for “a generous dose of vitamin D” and “an evening of cloudless blue sky” potentially seemed cruelly hijacked.

The opening work, Jonathan Dove’s Sunshine, was composed in 2016 as an encore piece premiered the following year. In the event, music and musicians sparkled and shone as though airborne over an ever-changing natural landscape to achieve five minutes of inspirational and magical uplift. Sunshine proved to be just as effective as a concert opener, a brilliant shaft of light to preface Mozart and Schubert at their sunniest and greatest.

Imogen Cooper’s searching performance of the Mozart concerto, composed while he was working on The Marriage of Figaro, took the operatic cue to perfection. Alert to every nuance of phrasing, dynamic and tonal colour in the proposals exchanged between keyboard and orchestra, shared rapport was engagingly conversational throughout. Moments where the pianist’s left hand becomes another character rather just an accompaniment to the right hand dazzled against the congregation of strings at every twist and turn.

The soul-searching intimacy of the central Andante delved deep in search of consolation, beautifully contrasted with the sinuous dialogue between flute and bassoon, where Anna Pyne and Tammy Thorn excelled. Every kind of nod and wink was lavished on the genial main theme of the finale for its varied appearances before a beautifully poised mini-serenade for wind. Time then stopped for a collective holding of breath for Cooper’s last cadenza as she summoned each character back to take a bow, their various traits expressed with a sense of reconciliation and hope before the sun reappears for everyone to skip merrily home. Bournemouth SO concert with Cooper and WigglesworthIt’s many a year since I’ve heard a performance of this concerto that has so vividly inhabited the operatic stage with such chemistry and insight. It's astonishing that this was Cooper’s first collaboration with Wigglesworth. Between them they pulled the music out of the air to conjure a cast and scenario worthy of Da Ponte. The pianist’s array of smiles as she voiced or accompanied their lines was a source of joy that told us much of what we need to know, understand and change.

“Effortless to conduct, but not to play” – thus our conductor in his BSO Livestream introduction as Alpine hiking guide to Schubert’s “Great C Major”, with the caveat that any exertion or exhaustion for the players should not be visible. I’m sure we’ve all been to performances where midway through the seemingly unending accompanying triplet figure for the upper strings in the finale, several desks of eyeballs look heavenwards for mercy as finger joints seize up, bowing arms falter and sweat begins to drop from collective chin rests. No visible or audible evidence of fatigue on this occasion, however. Quite the contrary – with single-minded focus on various states of repetitive rhythmic impetus coursing through each movement, Schubert’s most Beethovenian take on the symphony was challengingly swift, but consistently fleet of foot.

Conducting without a score, Wigglesworth sought transparent orchestral balance, a beautifully paced introduction immediately announcing a galvanising performance that knew where each movement was travelling within the trajectory of the symphony as a whole. With little relaxation of tempo, more lyrical sections may not have always offered ideal contrast within their framework, but Wigglesworth’s sleight of hand cunningly lightened the mood sufficiently by removing the bar lines so that the longer phrases still sang to the sun.

Come the second movement, what begins as a genial and buoyant march progresses ever deeper into darkness, ultimately reaching a dead end. Is this just losing one’s way deep in the forest? The increasingly persistent and louder military fanfares that subsume the march leading to this impasse suggest otherwise. Wigglesworth set the pace of the march more briskly than usual, generating a fearsomely relentless approach to something much more cathartic. The sun returned, but with a glimmer of its former self. It was back on track thereafter with a bracingly incisive scherzo and trio followed by a whirlwind finale, neither taking any hostages to fortune and moving the whole performance into an all-consuming blaze of restorative light. BSO looks set more than fair for great things with their recent appointment.

Comments

I haven't heard the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for some years, but am a huge fan. They work extraordinarily hard to bring classical music across southern England, and do it so well. If they were heard more in London, perhaps they'd get the esteem they deserve.

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