Jonathan Dodd shares his review of the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra (IWSO) final concert. Images courtesy of Luke Meads. Ed
Last Sunday, the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra gave a concert that surprised and delighted me. I am often delighted with the music the IWSO provides me with, and always appreciate the quality of their playing and the sheer pleasure of being present while the music is being played, rather than listening at home or on my listeners. There’s a charge in the air, and I love seeing all of these wonderful musicians focusing their full attention on the music itself and working selflessly to produce the best possible experience. It’s always a pleasure to be there.
Sometimes, however, the experience becomes overwhelming, and the IWSO goes beyond my expectations, and produces something I hadn’t expected, or something I had never heard before. Sometimes they deliberately step out of their comfort zone and go broke with an unexpected track, and they give a totally committed performance that becomes a triumph. And I love them for that.
The concert begins with a suite by Jules Massenet entitled Scènes Pittoresques. I only knew some of his more meditative pieces, and I didn’t know this work. It was composed in 1874 and was very popular. The orchestra attacked each movement from the start, bringing out the character of each movement, from the initial march to a dance tune, then the solemn Angelus with its evening notes and the ringing of the bells, and finally the Dance of Bohemia with its vigorous rhythms. and quieter times. It was invigorating and a great start to a wonderful evening.
The magic of Kliphuis
After a little rearrangement of the seats, the orchestra prepared the violin concerto “Ulysses” by Tim Kliphuis, named after the book by James Joyce, because it is like an inner dialogue, wandering freely through many thoughts and ideas. I could tell from the excitement emanating from the whole orchestra that something special was brewing. Mr. Kliphuis jumped onto the stage, a figure full of energy and excitement, and beamed at everyone. He showed no nervousness, just pure joy at being able to play.
The concerto began quietly, with a hauntingly beautiful melody and lively, unexpected orchestral accompaniment, then evolved into a virtuoso performance of great variety and musical enjoyment, led by Mr. Kliphuis and his violin, at through a journey of what felt like every type of violin I had ever heard, plus many more than I had even imagined.
As I sat and listened, delighted and totally attentive, I loved every moment and every note. I knew there was improvisation, but the soloist and the orchestra were so intertwined that I couldn’t tell where. I heard echoes of folk music, many varieties of jazz style, sounds of film music, dance groups from every decade, lots of classical orchestration and a host of other influences, which I would need many plays to capture. But the overriding emotion I felt was wonder, because it was so fresh and light and somehow juicy. I don’t have the language to explain how it made me feel.
The violin playing was impeccable, with so many highlights and varieties of expression, each delivered with precision, whether in the traditional way, or even plucked thumb like a ukulele, with foot tapping and nodding. , like a rock soloist. The orchestra had to accompany all of this in one way or another, and did so with extraordinary aplomb, whatever the mode required. It was amazing, and I wanted it to go on and on. When the last note died out, the audience and orchestra cheered thunderously, and when it was over, everyone around me exclaimed how wonderful, unexpected, and brilliantly played it was.
I would like to highlight a few of the outstanding performances of the musicians, but the truth is that I should mention them all, because they played their crazy. I loved it, and ask Tim Kliphuis to come back, because he was and still is brilliant. He performed a short abseil, the Remembrance of Villingen by Stéphane Grappelli, and explained that he fell in love with Grappelli’s music, then met the man himself, who told him he should make his own music. I’m so glad he did, even though he can still produce a great Grappelli track.
If you ever have the chance to hear this music or see it performed live, I highly recommend it. It’s sensational. Thank you IWSO, for having surprised and delighted me so well.
After that, the interval was welcome, so I was able to absorb my reactions. Then the orchestra settled into a more traditional work. Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor. I confess that I was never attracted by the great symphonies of the 19th century, perhaps because I never studied or listened to them enough. This performance helped convert me. Brahms took a long time to write it, finished it in 1874, and it’s lovely. It’s lighter than later symphonies. I noticed the small number of percussionists.
It felt like a young man’s symphony, working to express emotions musically, progressing through different themes and styles in the first three movements, which all come together in the fourth movement, exploding with relief and joy and a sense of resolution. I liked it a lot, especially the tunes of the last movement, some of which I think I recognized. I must come back to it now, to familiarize myself with it more. Once again, all the musicians played beautifully, and there were many solo moments from the members of each instrument group which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wish I was well enough informed to be able to name them all here.
Thank you for a truly memorable evening. I hope the lady who fell down the stairs in the meantime has recovered after the paramedics treated her, and I was delighted to see Mr Kliphuis himself playing in the orchestra at Brahms’ symphony.
The next concert will resume its usual day and time on Saturday July 9, at 7:15 p.m. at the Théâtre de la Médina. There will be a variety of musical delights under the title “Saturday Night Is Music Night”.
It will contain many favorite musical elements, such as “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Offenbach, “Carmen Suite” by Bizet and a Fanfare for Euphonium by Jacob. ‘The Blue Danube’ by Strauss, ‘Oxford Street’ by Coates, ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saëns, ‘In a Summer Garden’ by Delius, will follow, and the finale will be Tchaikovsky’s glorious ‘Capriccio Italien’.
It will be a wonderful evening, full of delicious music. Grab your tickets while you can! We’ll see each other there!
I would like to express my personal gratitude to Phillip Littlemore, whose scholarly program notes were of immense help in compiling this review.
Image: © Luke Meads