Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) with Alfredo Ovalles (piano)
In a year devoted largely to the music of one of the all-time greats – Ludwig van Beethoven, who just happens to be celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth in 2020, it came as no surprise that Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) – making its first of two visits to Plymouth during the year – should choose to play one of the composer’s best-loved Piano Concertos, and one of his favourite Symphonies.
Entitled ‘Pastoral Beethoven’, there’s no prize for guessing which symphony it was, while the BSO chose to complement this with the composer’s equally affable Piano Concerto No.4. Rather than make it an all-Beethoven Fest, the orchestra chose to open with an overture by his older contemporary, Mozart. But, as ever, this proved an astute bit of programming, given that Mozart’s particularly concise ‘Don Giovanni’ Overture already has a number of Beethoven fingerprints in many of its moments.
The orchestra was on top form, and I think it’s always better to catch the performance on its debut, rather than the next night in Exeter, or the night after in Portsmouth. Conductor Marta Gardolińska ensured the tempos were brisk, and the ensemble taut and well-balanced, on this occasion favouring the baton once more, after the previous visit in November, where it was purely hands only.
If there was one disappointment, it was in the concerto. On the previous two visits to Plymouth, the BSO had enlisted the services of two quite phenomenal violin soloists, who both gave truly memorable performances of the Brahms, and Tchaikovsky concertos, respectively.
With regards Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, especially if you are something of a purist, and know the work quite intimately, for my money Venezuelan pianist Alfredo Ovalles’s reading didn’t seem quite of the same level as those by his two violin-playing predecessors.
But all in all this was another thoroughly enjoyable evening, which was not only a sell-out, but where it was encouraging to see a good number of young people among the audience.
Plymouth audiences can do no more to bring the BSO back an extra time each year, but I am sure that, even if it does mean a lengthy coach trip back to Dorset after each event, the players enjoy coming to the city hopefully as much as we value and appreciate them making the trip down and back.
Meanwhile, you can read my full review of the present concert here at Seen and Heard International
Philip R Buttall