MUSIC / Hall or nothing: Anthony Payne on the Bournemouth SO's centenary concert

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The Independent Culture
A century after making its debut, as the Town Band, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra brought a brave, challenging programme to the Royal Albert Hall in celebration. In its early days the orchestra established a reputation for new music. Now, under its principal conductor Andrew Litton, it continues the tradition with impressive virtuosity and enthusiasm.

Many orchestras would simply have offered Mahler's Resurrection Symphony on its own, but as well as giving inspirational expression to that apocalyptic masterpiece with the aid of the Bournemouth and London Symphony Choruses and the City of Bath Bach Choir, the BSO also included outstanding interpretations of Tippett's Fanfare No 5 and Dutilleux's Timbres, Espace, Mouvement.

Adapted (by Meirion Bowen) from his mighty choral work The Mask of Time, Tippett's Fanfare encapsulates the composer's pulsating life force and sheer originality of view. The playing was splendidly alert, and the music's comic force was allowed to surface in dancing, arithmetical vigour.

A musical evocation of Van Gogh's visionary painting La Nuit etoilee, Dutilleux's Timbres, Espace, Mouvement places its composer in the first rank. A densely glittering range of sounds goes hand in hand with absolute clarity, and an improvisatory evolution of images with impressive intellectual rigour. A palpable masterpiece. Litton and his players responded magnficently to its sensuous surfaces and formal strength.

Finally we heard a glorious performance of the Mahler. Maybe no hall in the world can quite match the Albert Hall for the kind of alfresco revelations that this symphony encompasses. Orchestra and conductor revelled in the great space, and when the intimations of Judgement Day floated down from the gallery, Mahler's visionary demands seemed to have been perfectly met. Elsewhere Litton controlled the complex structural forces with superb assurance, drawing playing of sensitivity and virtuosity from his orchestra, and singing of blazing conviction from the massed choirs and soloists Yvonne Kenny and Jean Rigby. It was an interpretation worthy of the celebratory occasion.