Review: BBC NOW – Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring @ St David’s Hall

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BBC National Orchestra Wales – Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
St David’s Hall
Thursday 8th June 2017

Sad times abound, as BBC NOW wraps up another yearly season at St David’s Hall. Stravinsky has been on the agenda, with his three major early ballets and how could you possibly end with anything other than The Rite of Spring?

Hats off also go to the designer for their posters for this year. Each one bringing illustrated insight and clarity to each piece of music and making them instantly recognisable lie as each piece of music (this Matisse homage for the Rite is perfect).

We are to hear about Russia in the coming months as the centenary of their Revolution looks over this autumn period. Before we question the value of that political upheaval, this programme of mostly Russian music is a blast of the country for our ears to be jolted by. In his Scythian Suite, Prokofiev created a ballet score sadly rejected by Diaghilev and then formed into its format we see now. According to the programme notes the Scythians were “nomadic, Iranian-speaking tribes from Central Asia who ruled the steps around Black and Caspian seas from the 8th until the end of the 3rd century BC.” the music burts with this historical energy that suit the tribe well and revels in its primate mythology. This is in many respects Prokofiev at his most advanced, as the movement pound with chants and dances of exceptional musicality.

Ravel followed in his Piano Concerto in G major, with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. In a cheeky and delightful piece, Ravel bring Jazz and other music of the era into the classical canon. The work has two silly, frilly outer movements and a sublime slow middle which really does make you sit and contemplate. This is Bavouzet’s bread and butter. He flings and thrusts his hand onto the keys, his clawing of his keys another note worry element of his playing. His encore was only enough the final movement of the concerto. He the played it with even more jest.

Ending the night was the orchestral blockbuster that could only be The Rite of Spring. The famous primate Russian ballet which caused a riot back in Paris in 1913 could hardly have any contenders in his output to be as noteworthy of important to music history. This is a very familiar piece to me now, this being the six times I’ve heard it live for orchestra (an extra two times for the piano four hand version). It doesn’t lose much of its majesty and nightmarish vision of Russian elders and young virgins dancing to death. With conducting by Thomas Sønderård who appeared to have a violent time on the podium. Soloist were also sensational as they tackle the bold and bizarre moments they have to encounter.

Simply electrifying

Rating: 4 stars

BBC NOW continues with a new series of concerts in September 2017. 

Credit: BBC NOW website


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