Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Portsmouth Guildhall, review: ‘A crowd-pleaser that brought a smile’

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was at Portsmouth Guildhall with their Natural Beauty concert.
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was at Portsmouth Guildhall with their Natural Beauty concert.

Natural Beauty was the title of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concert at Portsmouth Guildhall, conducted by Michael Seal the associate conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The opening work was the Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) by Mendelssohn, a musical depiction of a bleak seascape in a range of moods.

A quiet start progressing through storms – which by chance matched the outside weather on the night – and a dramatic climax resolving with a brief but haunting gesture on the flute.

The major work of the first half was Brahm's Violin Concerto with Chinese soloist Ning Feng – an excellent, balanced performance from soloist and orchestra.

The overall approach was serious, musically thought out and structured; the soloist had great technical ease, youthful virility, a sweet sound and the ability to phrase as if singing, enabling one to listen afresh to what may sometimes seem overly cosy and familiar in performance.

The soloist's encore was Paganini's Variations on God Save the King. Showy, humorous, a bag full of tricks, a crowd pleaser that brought a smile to end the first half.

The programme concluded with the Symphony No.8 by Dvořák. Written in 1889 it depicts the natural beauty of the Bohemian countryside with charm and geniality, perhaps as on an extended walk with dance through the woods and meadows.

Essence of Dvořák with rather less emphasis on symphonic structure or length. Plenty of gossamer wind playing and punchy brass. 

A trumpet fanfare begins the final movement which continues in a theme and variations structure, traversing a virtuosic flute solo section and a village brass band impression, ending with a chromatic coda dominated by brass and timpani.