A Night Under the Stars

Ruslan and Ludmila – Overture
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op.28
Sonatina super Carmen
Hungarian Dances – No.1 in G minor, No.5 in F sharp minor & No.6 in D flat
Judas Maccabeus [exceprt]
West Side Story – Somewhere
Keiko Abe
Prism Rhapsody

Sir Roger Moore, Gloria Hunniford & Aled Jones (speakers)

Martin Grubinger (Adams marimba)
Valeriy Sokolov (violin)
Teo Gheorghiu (piano)
Harry Bradford (treble)

Streetwise Opera

Orion Symphony Orchestra
Toby Purser

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 2 December, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London - Royal Festival Hall

Toby PurserThe “A Night Under the Stars” concert is an annual charity fundraiser for The Passage, a charity for the homeless set up in Victoria, London, by the late Cardinal Basil Hume; present at this concert was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the current Archbishop of Westminster. It was pleasing to see an almost-full Royal Festival Hall and to hearing some up-and-coming musicians.

The overture to Glinka’s fantastical opera “Ruslan and Ludmila” was an ideal opener. The Orion Symphony Orchestra bounded into life with commitment and drive that powered the piece. Some sagging aside, there was a powerful and exuberant close. Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso found a highly musical interpreter in Valeriy Sokolov: the opening was brought out sympathetically and the Rondo’s rustic themes found Sokolov in devilish form. He gave a blistering account of the coda; music to revel in.

The same cannot be said of the undoubtedly-talented Teo Gheorghiu, who gave a lackadaisical account of Busoni’s Sonatina super Carmen (after Bizet’s opera). Nothing really come off and the final chords were limp efforts. Three of Brahms’s most popular Hungarian Dances allowed some members of the orchestra to show off, and high praise for the trombones in particular, and the strings in the Fifth Dance were gorgeously lilting in its middle section. Tempos were generally too rigid, though.

Harry Bradford, recently awarded the title of “BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year”, sang a recitative and aria from Handel’s oratorio “Judas Maccabeus”, where an Israelite woman prays that war may end and peace and music return to people’s lives. Bradford’s crisp and heavenly voice displayed an enormous range with seeming ease. Joining Bradford for ‘Somewhere’ from “West Side Story” were Streetwise Opera, made up of people helped by The Passage: if the singing was forgivably not note-perfect, the evident depth of feeling lent the music great pathos.

Prism Rhapsody, by the Japanese marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe, is from 1995. In the passionate Martin Grubinger this virtuosic piece found an ideal exponent – one who could bring out texture whilst throwing himself into its whizz-bang moments. The frenzied close reminded of Bernstein; a lot of ‘hip’ music owes much to that master.

Sir Roger Moore and Gloria Hunniford each gave speeches highlighting the charity work of The Passage. Sir Roger was particularly moving in his recollection of Audrey Hepburn, who introduced him to the work of UNICEF.

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