After a busy morning that saw 900 children and their parents/teachers attend their Open Rehearsal for Children, the Brighton Phil was in party mode for the season finale that afternoon (Sunday 25 March) with the orchestra, temporarily conducted by Leader John Bradbury, joined by the audience who sang “Happy Birthday” to Barry Wordsworth, Conductor Laureate.
Wonderful reviews of the concert can be found at:
Susan Elkin (for Lark Reviews)
Belinda Greenhalgh (for Latest Brighton)
Reviewing for The Argus Louise Dumas wrote:
“Pianists extraordinaire Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell strolled onto the stage at the Brighton Dome in marvellous waistcoats and bright shirts. Hello, they greeted the audience. Hello! ‘Do you remember when everyone had a piano in the house and no one could play it’, they inquired. Well: they set about reminding us how two musicians could play a piano and sound like an orchestra. In a wonderful lighthearted tribute to Barry Wordsworth’s seventieth birthday, they led the orchestra in a merry dance around Malcolm Arnold and Saint-Saëns, capturing the house in the palm of their hands and proving that classical music might just be much more fun than anyone thought.
Sibelius Karelia Suite began the programme in brisk tempo, the celebrated swooping melodies beautifully played with breadth and depth. Arnold’s Piano Concerto No. 104 was originally written for Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick ( Steven’s teacher) and announced his skill as a composer of film scores: it is modern, bright, eclectic and entertaining with snatches of Bacharach and Joplin. Barry, entering into the spirit of his birthday concert and with an end of term feeling, invited them to play an encore. It might be difficult to stop them, and nobody wanted to.
After three irresistible waltzes from Coppélia arranged by Barry Wordsworth, Steven and Kevin attacked the Carnival of the Animals with their own new, culturally relevant narration. We now know that the kangaroo pouch is for an ipad and that birds tweet. They aren’t just funny: they are completely brilliant pianists with an astonishing technique together which requires the utmost synchronisation as well as breathtaking showmanship. The audience roared approval and left singing, dancing and clapping.”
Reviewing for Brighton & Hove Independent Chris Francis wrote:
“It is often said you should always leave them wanting more but that would perhaps be a hard act to follow after the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra ended their 93rd season in truly effervescent and full value style at the Dome on Sunday.
Conductor Laureate Barry Wordsworth returned to take up the baton and although his 70th birthday had been celebrated a month earlier, this was the first time the orchestra and the Dome faithful had been able to pay tribute to their conductor of nearly 30 years.
The celebration opened with Malcolm Arnold’s Fanfare for a Festival as an extra bonus from the advertised programme. This piece written for the 1955 Festival of Music contains a couple of references to the ballad Sussex by the Sea and helped set the tone for a marvellous afternoon’s entertainment, with its big brassy sounds. It also set the standard for plenty of added value, with the vivacious piano duo Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell not only bringing their unique take on classical music but also providing a couple of joyously received encores.
The dynamic duo have arranged Arnold’s Piano Concerto Op 104 for four hands and one piano, which makes it altogether more accessible for orchestras than the two pianos and three hands it was written for.
That concluded the first half of the concert and they then brought the curtain down on the current BPO season by providing the playing and witty commentary for Saint-Saens’ brilliant Carnival of the Animals.
If that was not enough to satisfy the most demanding of concert-goers, then there was plenty else to delight as Sibelius’ tuneful Karelia Suite opened proceedings and in the second half Wordsworth visited his ballet roots with three wonderfully foot-tapping pieces from the score he created for Coppélia by Delibes.
After such a memorable finale, the Dome faithful will be counting the days around to the start of the 94th season in October.”
Reviewing for the Horsham & District Post Phil Dennett wrote:
“The final concert of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s season was a fitting and excellent memorial to one of its most loyal supporters. Don Newbold, also a generous sponsor of the orchestra, was due to sponsor Sunday’s concert but died shortly before. As a tribute to his loyalty and his love of the orchestra the Philharmonic decided to dedicate the concert at the Dome to Don.
The well-received concert had some musical surprises. In addition to the fascinating Malcolm Arnold piano concerto for two, played by the dynamic duo of Worbey and Farrell, there was a rousing welcoming Fanfare for a Festival bonus written by Arnold and played at the request of the Malcolm Arnold Society, who helped with the cost of the concert.
And for good measure the audience joined in congratulating conductor-laureate Barry Wordsworth on his recent 70th birthday.
The programme was certainly a high note to end what has been a successful season for the orchestra. The drama of the Sibelius Karelia Suite, familiar to people who regularly watched the excellent This Week political programme was a contrast to Worbey and Farrell’s fascinating and busy double act on the Arnold Piano Concerto, complexity mixed with moments of lyrical emotion. They threw in a couple of enthusiastically received encores for good measure.
The orchestra fully captured the sheer energy, dash and joy of the infectious Delibes Copéllia Suite, as well as its delicious moments of delicacy. A splendidly invigorating and high-spirited Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, with Worbey and Farrell wittily at the heart of the fun, seemed an apt way to look forward to the next season.
Brighton should celebrate having an orchestra of this quality, and its many regular patrons will be looking forward to the music warming the autumn when the new season starts in October.”
In addition messages and comments from Friends of the Phil and audience members have included:
“Many of my friends were at the Dome yesterday, all season ticket holders for the BPO and they, and others were still talking about the wonderful concert on the 25th March. A great way to celebrate Barry’s Birthday….and we certainly finished the season on a high!! On the day there were so many people at the bus stop, and during the journey home on the bus, constantly singing your praises for a wonderful concert…..and it was still happening yesterday afternoon !!! Many thanks for all your hard work which brings so much joy to so many people.” Rita King