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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Stravinsky and Walton at The Barbican
The Barbican is a wonderful concert hall to perform in, I used to sing the great St Matthew Passion there every Easter. As I sat in the choir waiting to sing I remember looking out into the vast audience trying to count everyone wearing red, a surprisingly fun game.
I’ve been to the Barbican many times since and last Friday went to see a concert of Stavinsky and Walton, kicking off the Guildhall’s new orchestral season. Three of my good friends from University were performing in the second half: Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. The first half was rather less inspiring than the second; Stravinsky can be quite a challenging listen. The Soldier’s Tale, his virtuosic morality play, is a strange piece of music with a libretto based on a Russian folk tale. The music is unbearably repetitive and after about twenty-five minutes I fell asleep. I enjoyed the speakers however, especially the role of narrator played by Director of Drama, Christian Burgess.
The stage was full for the second half, with a massive choir and orchestra. The students kept flooding on and it took me a long time to spot my three friends. I was delighted to see my cellist pal on the first desk, leading the way for her section. Belshazzar’s Feast is an oratorio and remains one of William Walton’s most celebrated compositions, as well as a popular piece in the English choral repertoire. It was performed on Friday with great gusto and the sound filled the Barbican like I’ve never heard before. This was helped by the extra brass sections that played from both sides on the upper level of the hall. The soloist was 2009 Gold Medal Winner Gary Griffiths, and although his voice didn’t completely win me over, he tackled the powerful part with admirable confidence.
A compelling start to the new season at the Barbican.