BSO Spirit of England, Portsmouth Guildhall, review: ‘a spiritual echo in time and timeless’

BSO’s Portsmouth Guildhall concert was entitled Spirit of England with associate guest conductor David Hill. The programme included well known and loved music by Vaughan Williams and Elgar.

Saturday, 23rd March 2019, 9:22 am

The Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) for string orchestra, is one of Vaughan William's finest works and established his reputation in English music.

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The performance started like a shimmering mirage leading to Tallis' 16th century Phrygian theme, which is repeated antiphonally between subsections of the string orchestra, arranged on stage as if to reflect divisions of a church organ, producing recurring echoes as if in a church – a spiritual echo in time and timeless. The concerto work was Elgar's opus 85 in E minor for cello completed in 1919.

Soloist Tim Hugh gave a deeply felt, meditative interpretation well suited to Elgar's final masterpiece. At the heart of the work a moving, intense pianissimo with time seemingly standing still in the wistful melody of the Adagio, especially in its reprise as a backward glance before the assertive finale.

Variations on an Original Theme For Orchestra Enigma Op 36 by Elgar completed the concert, a large scale extrovert work. A masterfully presented Nimrod variation IX played almost as if one long phrase, with wide arching dynamics. The self-portrait finale variation XIV rounded off the evening majestically.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​