Reviews of Sunday’s concert (10 February 2019)

Reviews of our most recent concert (on Sun 10 February) are now appearing online and in the local press.

Phil Dennett writes “The Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde is melodic and colourful, but conductor Stephen Bell also teased all Wagner’s passion out of the orchestra’s excellent expression without it wallowing into sentimentality. Some poignant oboe decorated the piece and beautifully controlled gentle bass, while away from the many reflective moments strings whipped up drama.” Of Camilla Roberts’ performance of the Four Last Songs he writes: “Sometimes Roberts soared as high and as confidently as Brighton’s seagulls as if on a thermal wave and at other times she mined the emotional depths of the Strauss score with gravitas.”He felt the orchestra gave “a charming and endearing account of the little-known first symphony by the Russian composer Reinhold Glière,with all four delightful movements threaded through with grace. At times as light as a souffle, with delicate woodwind, gentle echoes from horns and softly insistent strings, the orchestra occasionally let loose with some bolder brass and more strident timpani.”

Read his review in full at:

(This review will also appear in the Horsham & District Post, Mid Sussex Times and Brighton & Hove Independent.)

Writing for Latest Brighton Andrew Connal said: “This concert could have been so sad, being dedicated to the loving memory of violinist Melanie Hornsby, who died last summer. However, while the Prelude and Liebestod (love-death) from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs express deep melancholy, they also deliver much of the hope and consolation of the other dedicatee, Macmillan Cancer Support. The joy in this magical music, so ardently realised by all the performers, made a fitting and inspiring tribute.”

Read his review in full at:

Janet Lawrence in this yet to be published review for The Argus wrote:

“A little bit of foreknowledge of the music, for those of us who don’t know these works, would have
been useful for the first half of this powerful concert, performed impeccably by the Brighton
Philharmonic Orchestra at the Brighton Dome. Honoured guest conductor Stephen Bell, was very
clear in what he expected of his musicians, as always with John Bradbury on lead violin.

The orchestra played magnificently, making you relive the good moments in your life.
Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from his opera Tristan and Isolde, that opened the concert, has
an unmistakeable theme that repeats itself throughout the piece in many lyrical forms. Declared
one of the loveliest pieces of music ever written.

The Prelude starts the opera and Liebestod is its climactic end. It’s a tale of illicit love – Isolde
sings over Tristan’s dead body, in a consummation of their love in death.

This concept is echoed in the next piece in the concert – Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs. The
two composers overlapped by 19 years, Strauss living right up to the mid 20th century. It was
helpful to have a word sheet from which we could follow the songs – or at least remind ourselves
afterwards – to fully appreciate the beauty of these languid songs and their stories.

The beautiful Welsh-born singer Camilla Roberts, looking charming in a low-necked dress with
black top and flowered skirt, sang those eloquent verses with passion. “Through all my limbs
quivers your blissful presence”, ends the first song – while finally the travellers are tired – “O
spacious tranquil peace …. is this perchance death?”. My musically knowledgeable companion
declared the third verse was the loveliest. “Hands, leave all your doing; brow, forget all your
thoughts.” John Bradbury beautifully performed the violin solo, prelude to the soprano coming in
with the third song.

After this abundance of emotional passion, things change after the interval. Russian-born
Reinhold Glière was a contemporary the German Strauss, though they may never have met.
Gliére’s Symphony No 1 was a light-hearted, unchallenging confection, where the percussion
came into its own plus the trombones, with some nice trumpet solos in the first movement, leading
into playful mode in the second and a fairground atmosphere with lots of brass in the last.

Next Brighton Philharmonic concert is Sunday March 3rd, 2.45pm featuring our esteemed
Conductor in Residence Barry Wordsworth, with a selection of seven composers and lively works.”

Lark Reviews particularly loved the first half of the programme, saying: “Stephen Bell’s handling of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde was flawless. The limpid phrasing, the gentle, surging rubato and the intensity of the ensemble as a whole was magnificent. Would that we could hear him conduct a complete Tristan!” and A Wagnerian soprano, Camilla Robert’s voice carried with ease over the weight of Strauss’ orchestration and was breathtakingly effective in the third song Beim Schlafengehen. Here, leader John Bradbury’s lyrical violin solo lifts the expectation of the listener before the voice takes over to float effortlessly above. It is one of the finest moments in all of Strauss, and beautifully captured for us.”

Read the review in full at:

Audience member Simon Bonsor sent us this lovely review via our website:

“Given its dedication, this concert must have been almost unbearably poignant, not least for many members of the orchestra: but what a way to remember  one of their number so cruelly taken.
It was a wonderful  concert.

From the very first notes of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde we were rewarded with first class music making- playing of the highest standard and commitment. No-one dared breathe at the last note: we were all waiting for our cue from Stephen Bell before we could break the atmosphere  and applaud.

Camilla Roberts was absolutely  superb  in Strauss’s  Four Last Songs, and the orchestral accompaniment was perfectly  judged. Outstanding  in all departments. Praise to solo Horn, flutes and of course the orchestra’s leader.

This was a performance  which hit me right to the core, picked me up and flung me down, emotionally  wrung out. And it clearly affected the soloist too- though she was able, unlike me, to save her tears until the very end. What a voice. I need to hear more from this performer.

Gliere’s 1st Symphony was the perfect contrast in the second half: bright, tuneful, clean cut and cheerful. A great way to send us out into a chilly afternoon well satisfied.”

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