BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Live Review – Hull City Hall

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BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Live Review

Hull City Hall, March 2019

by Karl Hornsey

The BBC Philharmonic returned to Hull for its latest concert, featuring just two pieces – Dvorak’s ‘Cello Concerto in B minor’ and Elgar’s ‘Symphony No 1’, conducted by Vassily Sinaisky. The highlight of the evening for me, without question, was a majestic performance in the first of these by cellist Bartholomew LaFollette. The American-born British resident has enjoyed an illustrious career to date, including being appointed, at the age of just 26, as Principal Cello teacher at the Yehudi Menuhin School, and thrilled the audience with an intense performance of one of the most important and feted cello concertos ever written.

In fact, LaFollette was a late stand-in for Leonard Eischenbroich, who had to withdraw due to illness, but such is the talent of the man that such a proposition failed to detract from his performance. From the moment he walked onto the stage LaFollette exuded a deep confidence, a knowledge of the piece built up over many years, and an energy that led the orchestra through a concerto full of emotion and resonance.

Dvorak’s lasting legacy will always include the cello concerto, written very much with his beloved sister-in-law Josefine Kauric in mind, and he put all of his heart into the work once he heard that Josefine, whom he had once courted, was seriously ill. The poignancy and the slow movements are in stark contrast to those of the horn-led themes, and the contrasting emotions are never allowed to compete, instead working hand in hand to produce a wonderful piece of music. While LaFollette drew the eye with his performance of such an iconic work, special mention must also go to first violin Yuri Torchinsky, whose physically fluid style was also a wonder to behold.

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“Moments of reflection”

After the interval allowed the audience to catch their breath, the Philharmonic returned with Elgar’s first symphony, which premiered in 1908 to rapturous applause and the almost universal praise of those who first experienced it. The woodwind section were the highlight of this performance for me, with the flutes, oboes and cor anglais providing quiet moments of reflection among the cacophony of other instruments and, while the piece itself is hugely popular, I have to admit to losing the focus along the way as more and more of the orchestra contributed.

There’s no doubt that this is a typically ‘Elgar’ piece of work, simple yet elevating at times, but I’m not entirely sure where he was going with the piece, especially when compared to the clarity of what had gone before it. Despite this confusion in my brain, the quality of the BBC Philharmonic still shone through, elegantly conducted by Vassily Sinaisky, whose sheer enthusiasm for the work in hand made for another memorable occasion as part of the latest Hull Classics season.

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