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BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre
Wednesday 31st January 2018

Huw Watkins has only one commission left from our BBC NOW. His time spent with the orchestra has been fruitful, with new work and his curating of two concerts has been very welcome.

In his second concert, he has given us a much more contemporary feel, with British composers again taking the hall by storm. Alexander Goehr might have some interesting ideas within his Sinfonia, but overall the mind wondered and it could have been half the size of the finished piece.

The real showstopper of the night was the Oboe Concerto by John Woolrich. Sounding like a pleasant affair, the work was anything but. It had an immensity which I have heard little of in contemporary music and it left you reeling from the experience. Nicholas Daniel proves his masterful musicianship here in the solo oboe part, a serene and mostly affirmed role. The orchestra is the brutal one here, in a devastating part which makes your hair stand on end and eyes bulge. Metallic percussion including car parts, drums and even a hammer and block (a nod to Mahler?) are the aggressors here, along with a huge orchestra featuring a trio of ensemble oboes and a soprano saxophone, perfectly complimenting the tones of its ‘cousin’. Sat in the front row, it felt like an assault of the highest order. In short, it was simply astounding.

Huw would pop a cheeky work of his own after the interval. His String Trio is a melodious and never stuffy ten minutes for the string players. Filled with an airiness and easy escape into slight experimental tendencies, it sums up his craft extremely well. Ending the night was Ryan Wigglesworth and his Clocks. Ryan was meant to conduct but fell ill and we instead had the meticulous Jonathan Berman. Taken from his opera on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Clocks are the fine orchestral pieces within the stage work itself. There is inventiveness here and some stark evocations, but it really makes you crave seeing the opera itself. The ticking of clocks and a wider sense of time slowing down are evident here and you get a good feel of Ryan’s atheistic, which might not necessarily be to every taste.

With thanks to Huw for two invigorating concerts and for his music made especially by our BBC NOW. We look forward to the final premiere.

Rating: ****

BBC NOW continues its season at St David’s Hall with its St David’s Day concert at St David’s Hall.

Related Articles:

Review: BBC NOW – Huw Watkins Curates 1 & Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

BBC NOW – Elgar’s Cello Concerto

Photo Credit: Journal of Music


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