BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Eden Court, Inverness

13th November 2015

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Dvorak – the Water Goblin

Khachaturian  concerto rhapsody for cello and orchestra

Dvorak –Symphony No 9 (from the New World)

Conductor : Jamie Phillips 

Jamie Phillips.jpg

The Water Goblin was composed in 1896, towards the end of Dvorák’s life. It tells the story of a girl who is abducted by a water goblin, to whom she has a child. But when she is allowed to visit her mother and fails to return, the goblin deposits their baby on the doorstep minus its head! Before the infectious melodies and rhythms of Dvorák’s ‘New World Symphony’ the young Armenian cellist and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Narek Hakhnazaryan plays Khachaturian’s technically demanding Concerto-Rhapsody.

I used  to be forced under extreme protest to go to one Scottish National Orchestra concert a year from the age of 9. Loathed it! But it left me with an occasional spasm of nostalgia and then I book to see a bit of classical music. This was one such time…

And the first thing I noticed (apart from the shimmering red curtains in the background) was that most of the audience were one or two DECADES older than the orchestra itself….a bit like the church really, classical music is failing to capture a younger audience; which is a shame, because last night was a feast of skill and technical amazingness (yes! I know that’s not a real word!)

The Watergoblin has a storyline too gruesome to have been made into a film yet… Beauty and the Beast gone bad but the music was a fantastic waterfall of bubbling contrast and depth, animated musicians and a wondrous hive of activity with percussion and wind instruments answering and calling out to the string section…….. I am beginning to sound like a music snob…. It was great, think of three rock bands jamming and you get the gist!

Narek Hakhnazaryan

Narek HakhnazaryanHailed by the Washington Post as “a seasoned phenomenon”, Narek Hakhnazaryan is firmly established and recognised world-wide as one of the finest cellists of his generation. Having won the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011 at the age of 22 he has already forged strong relationships across the globe with orchestras such as the Mariinsky Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Filarmonica de la Scala and the London Philharmonic. In 2014 he was invited to join the prestigious BBC New Generation Artists scheme and as such his performances are broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3.

Khachaturian’s Concerto Rhapsody was an interesting contrast. I didn’t read about it before listening to it so this is what I heard…It opened in Montparnasse, that playground for poverty stricken musicians artists and poets in Paris; think smoke filled bars full of free thinking bohemians, then the scene shifts to 1930s prohibition, and then to a 1940s genre of gangster and suspense movie soundtracks. It finishes finally with a descent (though why not an ascent I am not sure) into what conjures from me a vision of Romanian travelers and their music. As it turns out it is not Romanian but Armenian . And through it all the solo cellist (a virtuoso?) played like a demon, literally like a man possessed! His hands never stopped, he didn’t look at his music, his eyes were closed and his whole body played the cello… a seriously amazing experience! And such a young guy.

… he cannot have had much of a misspent youth to play like that- I can only appreciate his sacrifice!

And then, following multiple returns to the stage to the applause of the audience, he told us that it is the year to commemorate the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians and proceeded to play alone , an  Armenian folk song.  Very moving, and I am ashamed to say I knew nothing of such genocide… I will investigate today!

Following the interval Dvorak ‘s Symphony No 9 from ‘The New World’ was played. Did you know that’s where the Hovis advert comes from? I HAD read about it in advance, so sad to tell none of the usual vivid images that are evoked by classical music came to me. A lovely bit of music but marred by my desperate suppression of an irritating cough I developed earlier in the week. Having said that, I skipped out humming the tune under my breath (and coughing).

So why are so few young people going to classical concerts? They are full of fire and love, ice and hell, loud music and alcohol… sounds like the perfect concert to me! Maybe we should drag our younger relatives once a year and then allow nostalgia to take over in the future.

Reviewer : Richard Aitken

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