Three Choirs Festival
Saint-Saens Organ Symphony – Three Choirs Festival
Worcester Cathedral 24th July 2017
William Lloyd Webber Aurora Poulenc Organ Concerto Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’
Review: Paul & David Gray
From Night Mists to the Rejoicing Heights
The programme began with a rather meandering 1
948 tone poem, Aurora, by the father of Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber. Aurora, Roman Goddess of dawn, arrives from the night mists in the form of a tune in the flute, dispels the morning dews, pursues ‘amorous adventures’ in a development section, before receding into the night mists from whence she came. The impressionistic effects created by the composer were captured well by the Philharmonia Orchestra, who played with great poise and sensitivity.
Poulenc is perhaps at his best as a miniaturist. In his Organ Concerto he gives us a more extended work comprising a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes strung together with no obvious organising principle. The work was designed as a showcase for organ, organist and string orchestra with timpani, and for those who could see the TV monitors, the virtuosity involved in the organ part was clearly manifest and exciting to watch. The strings of the orchestra were suitably soave, sophisticated and sparkling, but one has to say that the concerto as a whole has a formlessness that challenged even the most determined listener.
There was no such formlessness in Saint-Saens’s Organ Symphony of 1886. Despite being a work inspired by, and somewhat modelled on, the works of Franz Liszt, Saint-Saens creates an innovative structure and orchestration which engages the audience in its sense of ongoing dramatic narrative, glittering textures and a unique sense of being able to delay denouement, and thus the point of ultimate climax, to the very last moment. The young conductor, Jeremie Rhorer, judged the pacing of these moments to perfection.
This was superb playing by the Philharmonia, complete with the addition of piano with two players, a remarkably innovative instrumentation and, of course, the organ. A fine performance of a much-loved work: a great rejoicing in the sheer beauty of sound in the magnificent acoustic heights and spaces of Worcester Cathedral.
Wayne Marshall organ Philharmonia Orchestra Jeremie Rhorer conductor