The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 500th concert was as much about people like supporter Ted McFadyen as it was a celebration of a musical milestone, writes Phil Dennett.
As a Beethoven fan, former journalist Ted would have been delighted at the orchestra’s wonderful performance of the composer’s engaging Seventh Symphony at the Brighton Dome on Sunday.
Loyal Ted had been a “Friend” of the orchestra for 30 years and was from time to time a patron of the orchestra and sponsor of concerts, playing a vital role in their continuation.
He left a generous bequest in his will to the orchestra because of his love of music and the orchestra. The programme also included two pieces from Mozart, a composer of whom Ted was also especially fond.
Conductor Ben Gernon and the orchestra received well-merited and sustained applause as the rich tones of the Beethoven piece ended the concert.
The lively first movement of Beethoven’s brilliant work had a suitably celebratory panache for such a landmark concert.
Pause for thought
The more reflective second movement was at times played with great delicacy, with the strings gently tugging at the distinctive medley without hurrying along too quickly and the clarinets and oboes gently giving pause for thought.
The orchestra members were joyful accomplices as Gernon took the uplifting third movement at a thrilling gallop, with delightful horn and woodwind giving occasional opportunities for catching breath.
The strings provided a real powerhouse for a forceful finale, softened by woodwind flourishes, that summed up the orchestra’s confidence.
The sweet tones of soloist Tamsin Waley-Cohen eased their way into the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto number 5, but by the end of the exhilarating Rondo movement she had shown that she could also play with fire and not get burned by Mozart’s technical demands.
In between there was a seductive lightness of touch mingled with an ability to smoothly shift from jagged peaks to the basement of the lower register.
Mozart’s Symphony number 35 demanded energy from all the orchestra in its racing pulse of a first movement and some quicksilver strings and pumping bassoon helped it along nicely.
The second movement was all poise and grace, the strings skipping along while the basses added some dark contrast.
All the brightness of the third movement shone and in the fourth the orchestra reflected the fire of the first.
The only slight disappointment was that the programme did not attract anywhere near a capacity audience to share the important anniversary.
Having said that, to achieve such longevity in concert-making is a credit to both the quality of the orchestra and the loyalty of its audiences since the first concert 60 years ago. Long may it continue.