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Published date: July 16, 2019
Last modified: July 16, 2019

Young Critics Review 2019 – BBC NOW (by Martha Skerry)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Combining award-winning artists and an incredible orchestra was undoubtedly going to make a brilliant performance and it still blew me away. The performance was yet to start but I was full of anticipatory excitement as we took our seats. I could see the stage in its full glory, which added to my excitement. The orchestra took their seats in the beautiful aura of the Cathedral. Red and blue lights melded into a majestical purple that filled the grand space with a sense of calm. The media was simply incredible and a full-scale job for the crew situated in a van outside.

After a few introductions, Polly Leech (Lichfield Festival Artist in residence) took to the stage. As she sang Elgar’s Sea Pictures, her beautiful voice soared over the instruments and she allowed us to feel every emotion with each note. Her melodies perfectly showed us images of a storm and took us away from the Cathedral to the place the story was set. Her technique was exemplary with beautiful diction and a range of dynamics. It was wonderful to see that she never fought or overpowered the accompaniment of the orchestra but worked alongside it. The orchestra itself did an excellent job and added texture the piece. All together, they moved like clockwork with excellent precision. I loved the power of Polly’s voice which matched perfectly the size and scale of the Cathedral and lead me to believe that this was the perfect venue for the performance. During the interval, I was lucky enough to meet Polly and found it totally inspiring.  It was simply incredible to meet someone so relatable but also hugely passionate about what she does. Her enthusiasm for music made me feel empowered and excited about opportunities I may find in the future.

Next Andrei Ionita performed Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto. This piece showed us raw emotions such as anger and sadness, which Ionita presented beautifully. Throughout most of the pieces, his face was distorted with pure emotion and his shoulders were hunched and this allowed the story to be seen in sharp focus. The pieces presented a conversation between the orchestra and soloist with canon and the orchestra coming in both slowly and suddenly. This added texture the piece and made it much more interesting. Ionita was thoroughly prepared which gave him the ability to deliver such a heart-wrenching performance without music. He also used a range of techniques to add texture to the pieces, examples included vibrato, plucking, harmonics and a range of dynamics. It was incredible to see such a passionate and awe-inspiring performance, however it did hurt my brain to follow it intently throughout.

Finally we heard BBC NOW in its full glory as they played Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Full of pomp and circumstance, this performance felt like a night at the proms, which was majestical and awe-inspiring. Everyone (orchestra and audience alike) was transfixed by the music and we seemed to be glued to the edge of our seats. With a range of melodies and dynamics going on at once, it created an incredible texture, which seemed to encase the audience. The conductor performed with such vigor and looked so in-control. The orchestra stayed perfectly in-sync and the overall effect left me gob smacked. This performance was full-bodied and comforting with a range of pieces and a happier aura, which was a nice contrast from the emotion of the other two sections.

Overall, I really enjoyed this performance as it was beautiful and emotional and you could see the hard workthat had gone into creating such a high-scale event. The musicians played incredibly which lead me to an epiphany. I had never heard such beautiful music, this performance means I am more likely to choose to listen to classical music and means I would like to go to more classical music concerts in the future. I would definitely recommend this event to anyone who wants to enjoy music (as long as you can sit still for 2 hours). The night ended in rapturous applause that went on forever and was definitely very well deserved.

by Martha Skerry (age 13)