Review: BBC NOW -Stravinsky’s Petrushka @ St David’s Hall

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BBC National Orchestra of Wales – Stravinsky’s Petrushka
St David’s Hall
Thursday 9th February 2017

BBC NOW have been active in having the three big Stravinsky ballets performed over their year long season. Granted this great Russian composer is best remembered of these works, their influence in music cannot be underestimated.

Starting with Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg Music, the evening was off to a noble start. This is early Wagner, though it still packs a mighty punch and is both melodic and memorable. Parisian audiences may have booed the opera, but who can argue that the music is rousing to a point of intensified beauty. It is always a great concert opener.

Following on in this was baritone Roderick Williams and excerpts from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Within Youths Magic Horn, lies some exceptional lieder for singer and instrumentalists. These songs are gems in the German repertoire and although silky voiced Williams sang only a few extracts, the effect is strikingly made clear to listeners. Highlights included Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fish, a swirling declaration to sea life, intensely soaking in the Saints blessings. This music is also part of his Resurrection Symphony and it’s easy to why it was recycled.

Where the Fine Trumpets Sound is an exquisite song with the lover at the door of his girlfriend, added by his looming draft to war and the absence of his soon to be departed love. This is a song for all the lovers out there and is so gentle and quiet, it makes a lasting musical impression. The Drummer Boy is a bombastic blast, as the youngster is sent to his death and he bids farewell to all things. Williams delivers each song with such pernach and in such a convincing way, his acting, as well as stellar voice is never put into question. Do hurry back soon.

Ending the night was the big one and a real delight at that. The ballet Petrushka by Stravinsky, is a personal favourite of mine and was introduced to me by BBC NOW some 11 years ago. The delightful story of the puppets Petrushka, The Ballerina and The Moor are brought to life brilliantly by a luscious and shimmering score by the great Russian composers. Heaps of instruments gets solos in this and there are so many highlights.

The opening is an overwhelming wall of colour and Russian scents, The Ballerinas cornet which taunts with little marches, The Moors evocative pairing of the bass clarinet and contrabass bassoon and most of the final tableaux are some marvellous moments. Parts have a gloriously Christmas like quality to them, such is the exuberance of the Shrove Tide Fair that opens and closes the ballet. You don’t need to see the dancers, as the amazing orchestra is enough to visualise this most colourful of pieces.

Everyone should listen to Petrushka.

Rating: 4 stars

BBC NOW series continues with performances at St David’s Hall of the St David’s Day concert, Bach St. John Passion and Stravinky’s The Rite of Spring

An extended performance of Satie’s Vexations takes place around Cardiff in 2017, as a fundraiser for OCD UK, with such venues as the Wales Millennium Centre as locations (more to be confirmed). We also need more musicians, venues, electronics artists, rap artists and artists in all fields to help to complete the piece. Follow #CardiffVexations & @weepingtudor on social media to see more! 

Image Source: BBC NOW Website


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