21st February 2017
Poole Lighthouse Centre
Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude to Act 1
Schuman: Cello Concerto
Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude to Act 3
Schuman: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish)
Conducted by Kiril Karabits
Guest Performer Steven Isserlis
The overriding desire to see Steven Isserlis play was what drove me to swallow my usual disdain for the music of Richard Wagner, and boy was I glad that I did. Because tonight at the concert hall there was an electric atmosphere as music lovers of all forms flooded to the Poole Lighthouse to see one of the foremost cellists.
To begin with, though, credit must be given to the players of the orchestra and Kiril Karabits for turning the music of Wagner into something that actually excited me. Listening to this music in the hands of a skilled orchestra and a superb conductor on the top of his game I finally got what the fuss was all about. I do add that the sweeping and utterly romantic Act 1 Prelude was by far and away more enjoyable than the Act 3 Prelude, but that was due to the nature of the music and the fact that the first piece by Wagner was not as brash and annoying as the second. However, both pieces were transformed from what I consider to be the typically Wagnerian, over the top rage inducing music, into something that swept me off my figurative feet, and all the credit for that was with the BSO and Mr Karabits.
There was a very perceptible hike in the audience’s anticipation as the stage crew set about changing the seating in order to make more room for the platform and seat which Mr Isserlis was to sit upon during his part in the concert and indeed as he walked out he was met with a wall of sound from the audience who were only too thrilled to show how delighted they were to in the company of such an extraordinary talent. From the beginning, we were treated to what seemed like the effortless flexing of Mr Isserliss’ musical muscles, and the histrionics which his fans have come to know as a hallmark of a performance by that great musician. He nodded, hair flying, bobbing his head with the music, beating his hand upon his breast when he was not playing, but above all else, what we all loved was his playing and the way the music seemed to come with no more than the lightest touch of the bow and the gentle pressure of fingers to strings. The only analogy that comes to mind was that of watching a man of the stature of Hendrix playing. It was a treat, one that really made listening to anything by Wagner worth the price.
The audience were so grateful for this wonderful performance that the applause went on for ages and Mr Isserlis showed his appreciation for such warm applause by treating us to an encore that was an adaptation of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony for string quartet, which was orchestrated by the composer, and altered so as to incorporate the entire string section. Truly and enchanting and unexpected pleasure, the conductor, virtuoso and players really did have the audience eating from the palm of their hands.
The second part of the evening was not a letdown either as one would imagine such a thing becoming after such a wonderful first start. But Mr Karabits is a conductor of the highest quality at the top of his game. Here is a man who truly knows the music he is conducting and has a clear direction of what he wants the orchestra to do. Schuman’s symphony was a typically romantic piece, but while more modern tastes might be inclined to dismiss this as old fashioned, quaint and almost boring, I would defy anyone to hear this music as the BSO and Mr Karabits performed it last night and still go home thinking the same. It would be the most unyieldingly ignorant to do so. Mr Kiril Karabits is a cultural treasure to the region, and the BSO are a cultural icon.
I went home from this concert positively humming, it was a great evening as one is almost guaranteed to have with the BSO. I sincerely urge you to go and see them if you get a chance to. You can find out more about getting tickets and memberships by going to their website HERE.