The Year 1905


Thinking "why don't I come here more often?" I attended a most engaging symphony concert in the RCM's beautiful Amaryllis Fleming Hall. I'd been invited to hear my own orchestral work, Heroic Strokes of the Bow, which openend the concert. I often almost dread turning out to this piece, as I know it's so challenging, a 15-minute workout for every orchestra member, with no hiding places and many rhetorical silences. But this student orchestra gave it intense attention - one of the most energised performances of this work that I can recall.


This was followed by "Sesquialtera", an ingenious premiere by RCM student Anian Wiedner, which constantly revealed the hall's Flentrop organ, ranged behind the orchestra, in all kinds of surprising ways. Anian I believe had sensibly noticed that the organ's volume can easily be hidden by orchestral sound (most people presume it's the other way round) and made clever use of that phenomenon.


Most striking of all was a performance of Shostakovich's 11th Symphony - subtitled "The Year 1905" - effectively an hour-long tone poem with only slight breaks, a large orchestra (eg seven percussionists) wrestling with such gripping textures. I could imagine that many of the young players had not before faced the challenge of playing for an hour continuously in the limelight of this constantly energised material. The feat of directing this complicated concert, with his trademark warmth and geniality, was performed by conductor Martyn Brabbins, giving every ounce to this poetic music.


The Hall was largely full, and I imagine that many of London's music lovers increasingly look out for the public concerts in our four remarkable conservatoires, and not just on ticket cost grounds. I too vowed to return very soon. (Pictured - Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall.)

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer