Review: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

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You may not be aware of it, but there is a world-class orchestra regularly performing on campus.

It’s called the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, it was founded in 1893, and it plays venues in “the South and South West of England” – including Exeter’s own Great Hall.

A few weeks ago, they opened their 2013-14 season with a concert enigmatically named “Elgar’s Enigma”. What, you may ask, is Elgar’s enigma? You know Nimrod, that wistful music they play in the movies when someone misses England? Well, that.

Actually, that’s not strictly true – ‘Nimrod’ is just one part of a complete work called Enigma Variations, by the English composer Edward Elgar, who was famous for writing the Pomp and Circumstance Marches (Land of Hope and Glory And All That). It’s an emotional piece of music, and the conductor Owain Arwel Hughes (who, by the way, had epic hair) did it good justice in my opinion. The cellos were brilliant, and the brass section especially ought to be commended: there were some points where it got Very Loud. If you’ve never been to see a real orchestra live – or at least, never seen an orchestra play real music – then you can have no idea just how loud a modern orchestra can be. There are some bits where they make a hell of a lot of noise.

For me, the highlight of the evening was Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. I’m personally very fond of this piece. The opening is badass as heck, and the ending is a real display of virtuosity and silliness. Leon McCawley at the piano dominated the Hall, and gave Beethoven his due in the fervour and depth of his playing. This was not candy floss for the ears; this was really passionate piano music.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will be playing many, many more concerts in the coming year (and the coming years, hopefully) at the Great Hall. Why not give it a try? Student tickets are relatively cheap, and in reality we are extremely lucky to have such a high quality orchestra playing concerts here for us. The coming concert season promises Rachmaninov, Dvořák, Strauss, more Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Wagner … and a special concert of movie soundtrack music, too. I’ve already got my tickets booked.

Words by Sam Nugée

Illustration of Bournemouth by Hannah Peck

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