The latest Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra concert of the season was a great example of the way music can touch lives, writes Phil Dennett.
As if Beethoven was not moving enough, there was another reason for it stirring the emotions.
The concert at the Dome was sponsored in memory of Philip Wilford, a sponsor in recent years, with his wife Jane, of the Principal Flute. Philip died earlier this year, aged 67, after suffering from cancer for four years. He was a big fan of conductor-pianist Freddy Kempf and loved Beethoven. In his will he left £10,000 to the orchestra.
Philip would have been delighted with the way Kempf and highly consistent orchestra evoked perfectly the sometimes dark but expressively beautiful Beethoven Third Piano Concerto.
Kempf was the cool captain of the keys at the eye of the storm in the first movement, expressing energy seemingly effortlessly while easing into the more reflective moments.
His opening of the slow movement was delightfully fragile yet confident, and the graceful lightness of the orchestra complemented the mood beautifully.
There are so many delights in this work of light and shade and Kempf captured them all with a memorable performance that was matched note for note by the musicians.
At times he played high notes with his right hand while bringing in the orchestra with his left, a little distracting at times but never detracting from the quality of the music.
Dvorak’s deep and at times doomy Symphony Number 7 is probably his best musically, even though the 9th, or New World, Symphony is no doubt the most popular.
There was there plenty of power from the brass in the restless allegro opening movement, alongside some attractive woodwind playing.
Gentle clarinet and bassoon paved the way for the strings to ease into the poco adagio, and the orchestra captured this movement’s contrast of the tranquil and feverish, with taut strings and ominously rumbling cello and bass.
The strings and some timely trumpets added fire to the fervent and most exhilarating third movement, and the mood of defiance in the fourth was tangible.
Indeed, Kempf infused the orchestra with his energy and enthusiasm when conducting the other two pieces away from the piano stool, including a sparkling Rossini Semiramide Overture.
Jane Wilford said of her husband’s bequest: “We have both had so much pleasure from attending Brighton Philharmonic concerts over many years.
“Music was part of our life together and we are all very lucky in this town to have such a wonderfully enriching cultural scene, of which the Brighton Philharmonic is an integral part.
“Philip was very keen for the orchestra to go from strength to strength, and he left a bequest in his will to the Brighton Philharmonic Society of £10,000.”
The Society said it was very grateful to Philip for the generous bequest, and to Jane who continues to sponsor the Principal Flute.
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