Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – Spring Dance
Dvořák : Four Slavonic Dances
Mendelssohn : Violin Concerto
Rachmaninov : Symphonic Dances
Conductor : Owain Arwel Hughes
Soloist: Alexandra Soumm (Violin)
Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances are a joyous celebration of his simple background and the richness of Czech peasant culture. They were originally composed for piano duet, but he reworked them at the behest of his publisher into orchestral arrangements which are truly breathtaking and proved an instant success. The four being performed, taken from both the original set and eagerly anticipated follow-up set, comprise two fiery and exuberant Czech furiants, a Bohemian waltz-like sousedská (related to the Austrian ländler) and an elegant starodávný, a sort of polonaise.
In his Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn dispenses with the traditional orchestral exposition. Instead, after three beats of quiet, throbbing vamp in the orchestra, the violin launches into a soaring violin melody whose lyricism exhibits a grand passion tinged with restless, Romantic melancholy. It continues in lighter fashion, brilliant and sunny full of scintillating passagework that trips along with the distinctive aerial grace of which Mendelssohn was the undisputed master.
Composed in 1940, the Symphonic Dances proved to be Rachmaninov’s last work, and the music suggests a new direction the composer might have pursued had fate granted him more time. In contrast to the lush harmonies and sweeping melodic lines that characterize his earlier style, it offers a more modern sound of leaner textures, sharper harmonies and more concise motifs. Rachmaninov creates a wondrous kaleidoscope of instrumental colours, from the mellow crooning of an alto saxophone to the dry-bones clatter of a xylophone, and with its incisive dance rhythms inspired by folk and jazz the work finally explodes with visceral energy.