Glinka’s overture from Ruslan and Ludmilla is a popular curtain raiser and the type of musical aperitif that tends to begin seasons.
How apt then that this was the opener to London Philharmonic Orchestra’s return to the opening of Eastbourne’s newly-refurbished Congress Theatre.
The brilliantly energetic piece takes you headlong into a wickedly fast score, but it was superbly controlled by Conductor Darrell Ang who I found as mesmerising as the afternoon’s music – not least as, for the most part, he did not use a score and so seemed to immerse himself into the soul of the orchestra itself.
After getting the packed house roused from their now wonderfully-comfy seats (and, for what it’s worth, a superb sound system too) we were treated to Elgar’s cello concerto. You don’t need to know your classical music to recognise this piece. Composed in the aftermath of the First World War the musical soul-searching that seems to be Elgar’s attempt to reconcile his patriotism with the awful reality of war was in safe hands in the form of cellist Kian Soltani. He made his instrument both sing and strike dread in deft moves of his bow. The third movement was sublime, while his cello `sang’ in the fourth during its often-playful duel with the orchestra.
The afternoon’s fare finished with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 5, a largely triumphant march of patriotic Russian fury which is then balanced by the calm of the memorable horn melody in the second movement. Again, orchestra and conductor sparkled with energetic fervour.
At the end of Elgar’s cello concerto, soloist and conductor hugged each other as if in recognition of the emotional rollercoaster they’d just been on. And Eastbourne’s audience did much the same at the end of the concert, but this time the `hug’ took the form of rapturous and persistent applause. It was the equivalent of the strong, warm embrace you give a long-lost friend. Welcome back LPO and the Congress, we have missed you both. By Jane Gould.