Sixteen Swans was a collection of dramatic and enchanting music, which created a wonderful evening of high emotion played by very talented musicians. Conducted by Roderick Cox, this combination of Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius is a powerful combination which mesmerised and enthralled the captive audience.
The dramatic opening of Strauss’ Don Juan with powerful percussion allowed the flutes, played by Cormac Henry and Helen Wilson, to really shine through with an air of mystery. The tinkling of a triangle provides an air of sweetness before the strings sweep away as gentle melodies contrast well with more intense themes.
Accomplished pianist, Inon Barnatan plays on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1. Another piece with a dramatic opening, staccato piano is complimented by pizzicato from the strings, blending into a call and response melody. Barnatan and the orchestra do an excellent job of showcasing Tchaikovsky’s ability to marry gentle and enchanting melodies with commanding themes. Barnatan’s strong connection with the orchestra allowed him to be completely lost in the music, as he played impressively quickly and flawlessly. Very soft pizzicato in the second movement blended beautifully with haunting refrains on flute from Henry and the striking close ended the piece on the high it deserved before Barnatan treated the audience to a rich and haunting solo.
The final piece, Sibelius’ Symphony No.5, is the source of the Sixteen Swans title for the evening, with elements of the melody being inspired by swan calls and Sibelius once seeing a flock of sixteen swans take off in flight. The opening of the piece is warm and enchanting, heavily focussed on the woodwind section with a gradual build-up of percussion. There is a lot of power in the first movement, which contrasts with the pizzicato strings and staccato woodwind which opens the second movement. Strong brass creates a sense of awe and wonder with rattling provided by striking the double basses before the piece ends with a sense of majesty and something magical being revealed.
As a collection, Sixteen Swans was particularly well thought out with the three pieces complimenting each other well, but also standing out based on their own strengths The audience were left on a high, many people leaving the Philharmonic Hall singing the refrains they had heard.
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 29th June 2023
North West End UK Rating: