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The music of Britten and Bridge in latest APO concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Benjamin Britten & Frank Bridge

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Britten. Simple Symphony
Sibelius. Romance in C
Bridge. Suite for String Orchestra

Conductor Vincent Hardaker

Auckland Town Hall

March 23

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The second movement of Britten’s Simple Symphony always surprises as its opening  is the same as the notes which begin the theme of the long running BBC radio show, The Archers. It underlines the pastoral links of much British music and how its elegant simplicity reflects on the country’s rustic dance traditions.

The symphony’s bright and lively quality comes from the fact that the tunes are based on compositions Britten wrote as a nine-year-old, ten years prior to his writing the symphony in 1933. The work also has connections with many of Britten’s other compositions for  children such as “A Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra”. But, as with many other works such as his opera Billy Budd, and Death in Venice there is the occasional ominous aspect, notably in the third movement.

The titles of the movements are not the typical traditional tempo indications, such as  Allegro, but instead are descriptive: a Boisterous Bourrée, a Playful Pizzicato, a Sentimental Sarabande, and a Frolicsome Finale, an indication of his love of dance themes and in creating music for children.

The four dances with their intertwining melodies  conjure up the movement of the limbs and bodies of the dancers. Each of the sequences has a different mood with the first movement a classic country dance, the vigorous bowing and interplay between the strings creating light and shade. The second has a fast-paced pizzicato theme with its hearty stamping of the rowdy  village dance . The third movement features a more elegant and graceful display with a tinge of sadness threaded throughout. This is followed by the energetic final movement where the composer brings together themes and techniques from the past three movements to make up a more elaborate finale.

Conductor Vincent Hardaker guided the orchestra with precision, his own dance-like directions showing that the symphony is anything but simple.

Also on the programme was Frank Bridges engaging Suite for Strings composed in 1909. The work is beautifully designed and  technically sophisticated with solid Edwardian values continuing a British version of the late nineteenth century masters such as Tchaikovsky. It was works like this which inspired much of Benjamin Britten’s own music  .

The orchestra under Hardaker showed off all the suppleness of the work carefully detailing  all its embellishments and flourishes.

Next week concerts

March 29t

Haydn Symphony No.44 ‘Trauer’
Brahms Serenade No.2

Conductor Shiyeon Sung

March 31

Respighi Ancient Airs & Dances: Suite No.3
Puccini Crisantemi
Stravinsky Pulcinella: Suite

Conductor Shiyeon Sung

Shiyeon Sung is the first woman to win the Sir Georg Solti International Conductors’ Competition. This is her first appearance with the APO.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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