Review: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Guildhall

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THE BSO and conductor David Hill brought an all-English programme to the Guildhall on Friday.

They began with that delightful series of miniatures The Wand of Youth by Elgar, which abounds in so many deft touches of orchestration from what is actually a rather large ensemble.

We don’t hear enough Delius these days, so it was a real pleasure to hear one of this composer’s best pieces, the beautiful Walk to the Paradise Garden.

If there was room for a more ardent intensity in the climaxes, the ravishing playing of the strings and winds brought many compensations.

The orchestra’s leader Amyn Merchant was a splendid soloist in The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, and the ever-sensitive accompaniment allowed his refined technique and assured to tone to create a spellbinding effect.

These three shorter items prefaced Elgar’s magnificent First Symphony, described by its dedicatee the conductor Hans Richter as ‘the greatest symphony of modern times’.

A century later that enthusiastic description still resonates, and the BSO was on magnificent form in generating a performance whose intensity of expression at one extreme was matched by sensitive delicacy at the other.

It’s hard to imagine how the music could have been better served. A triumph.