Review: Hall of Fame, Dazzling Concerto Performed by Jayson Gillham

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Incredible

Very high quality of musicianship from the soloist, Jayson Gillham, and generally incredible performing by the orchestra with some expression falling flat in the Tchaikovsky.

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The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra once again blew audiences away in their suitably titled ‘Hall of Fame’ concert in the Bournemouth Pavilion on 28th April. It struck me as a rather irregular venue for a night of classic orchestral music: the Bournemouth Pavilion is a quintessential seaside theatre with nothing visually in common with the modern concert venue. However, (despite my initial fear!) the acoustic in the venue was perfectly suited to the repertoire of the night and the atmosphere was unpretentious as a result of the theatre’s appearance. The programme of much loved orchestral repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty Suite, Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, was presented by Classic FM’s own Anne-Marie Minhall who mediated the concert with the same recognisable flair that she is known for during radio broadcasts. The night was undoubtedly stolen, however, by the fantastic soloist of Grieg’s Concerto, Australian born pianist, Jayson Gillham, who deservedly received applause following the first and final movements of the concerto as well as one in retrospect prompted by Minhall.

First on the programme was Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty Suite which featured wondrously luscious melodic moments well known to audiences. Victor Aviat, as BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association, communicated fluidly with the orchestra which he has now had much experience working with, to translate the emotional depth of Tchaikovsky’s writing and convey the drama of the work accordingly. Some wonderful care was taken in the melodic phrasing during this piece, however a degree of stiffness could be observed amongst the string players which detracted from a certain warmth of sound that could have aptly been applied.

Gillham took to the stage following the Suite for Grieg’s virtuosic Piano Concerto in A minor. The performance was nothing short of exquisite: a subtlety of tone, so difficult to distinguish on the piano was seemingly effortlessly achieved by the soloist, making for a captivating and moving interpretation. The kinetic extravagance of the first movement was expertly handled by Gillham who displayed just a few flourishes of showmanship which were striking without bearing any arrogance. The second movement was composed of delicately considered arpeggio figures set up the finale which seems to reference a folk-like jubilation. The clarity of musical lines and intention as well as accuracy was next to flawless throughout the concerto.

Rachmaninov’s forty minute Symphonic Dances brought the concert to a close with all the dynamic fervour required of the work. The atmosphere exhumed by the orchestra was electric. The initially voluptuous harmonies of Rachmaninov’s dance material transforming to gleeful excitement. Some really excellent solo parts in this work, with the notable highlights by saxophonist Kyle Horch and Anna Pyne whose tender expression was touching and unobtrusive. The BSO definitely proved themselves as a formidable orchestra with this performance; the carefully calculated and unusual timbre choices, particularly in the percussion and saxophone, by Rachmaninov balancing well amongst the ensemble so as to blend when necessary and protrude when required.

Another incredible concert by the BSO and an especially captivating performance by Jayson Gillham who will continue his solo work this year with concertos by Chopin and Beethoven. The Bournemouth Pavilion was a wonderful venue which had the attractive characteristic of a quaint theatre with the acoustic quality to host the BSO. I sincerely suggest keeping an eye out for any performances by Gillham (there are several more in the UK this year) as his is my favourite concerto performance to date and nearing proms season, definitely try to catch the BSO if you are able.

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