REVIEW: Blowing minds and light bulbs – Matthew Trusler and the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

Matthew Trusler. Picture by Sheila Rock
Matthew Trusler. Picture by Sheila Rock

The Brighton Philharmonic concert on Sunday, January 31, at The Dome offered a variety of musical styles to suit all tastes.

The overture to Oberon, by Carl Maria von Weber, kicked off the performance and the orchestra evoked the sounds of the characters in a piece written in the same year as Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream overture.

The otherworldliness of the music was at all times intriguing, sometimes fey and sometimes more intense. Working its way to the final bars it proved an excellent preparation for the piece that followed.

Soloist Matthew Trusler admitted in his pre-concert interview that he has chosen to spend his career with 20th century composers, such as Bartok, Britten and Shostakovich. It was no surprise, then, that he was completely confident in his handling of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1.

But it was not his sparkling performance that caused light bulbs to blow, rather a power surge in the Brighton Dome area, which had him looking up at the lighting gantry in some trepidation as the first movement got underway.

BPO conductor laureate Barry Wordsworth did a superb job with the orchestra, providing the space and balance, which allowed the violin to sing out. The musical canvas of the Prokofiev is varied, lyrical and strident by turns but always leading the listener on towards the unexpected. This concerto is unusual in that the final movement is ‘piu tranquillo’ and so ends on an elegiac note of beauty and suspense, when the soloist apparently wiped a tear from each eye and the audience sighed with appreciation before offering considerable applause.

In the second half the Brahms 3rd Symphony was as stolidly Teutonic as the Prokofiev had been transcendental. Like comparing a Dali painting where familiar things are in unusual juxtaposition to the predictable and detailed Rubens artwork of mythology, with full and fleshy gods and cherubs and a background of fluffy clouds on an unbelievably blue sky!

While the Brahms made a stark contrast it was no less effective for being so dense with detail and making full use of the brass section.

The third movement was as mellifluous as it is well known and the whole symphony was executed with panache and power.

With the next concert falling on Sunday, February 14, not surprisingly it features romantic pieces, including Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 played by Melvyn Tan, Mascagni’s famous Intermezzo and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. It promises to be another cracker.

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