I love the cello. Ever since starting to learn the violin I’ve loved the cello! And the first piece of the night, Richard Strauss’ “Dreaming by the Fireside” started with a gorgeous cello tune. It was a perfect celebration of all things stringy. A beautiful opener which set the scene for the rest of the concert; It was short and pretty. You could feel the audience lapping the romantic chords and sweeping strings as the piece rose and rose to an emotional climax. However, you could also feel the tension as people waited for the true star of the evening to stride onstage, and despite being a lovely piece of music, the Strauss was very much outshone by the magnificence of the rest of the concert.

After applause and pause of anticipation, the soloist, James Ehnes walked confidently up to his place beside the conductor. He was carrying an instrument that I had read was a 1715 Stradivarius! As a violinist I know that to even touch an instrument of that quality you have to be an incredible musician! The piece started with a simple phrase from the strings and then the woodwind entered, The basses pounding away steadily underneath it all. The dynamic rose and rose, the intensity and texture of the music grew and grew to a huge crescendo before fading away slowly. The violinist entered with an understated simple melody before returning to the original tune alongside the return of the orchestra. The silence in the hall as Ehnes tentatively bowed the almost cautious melody was astonishing! The piece rose and fell until building up to a large cadenza showing off Ehnes’ skill and virtuosity. The first movement ended with the original tune, having been developed greatly throughout the piece, jumping up and down the violin. The concerto was a very typical romantic concerto, containing all the technical arpeggios and harmonics expected from what is widely regarded as one of the most technically difficult violin concertos ever composed!

I really enjoyed the whole concerto despite its obvious show-off-ness. From what I gathered so did the rest of the audience because he was encouraged back on to the stage at least 5 or more times, each to greater and greater applause! The final time, he gave in and lifted his violin once more to play an encore. He played Bach’s 3rd violin sonata. This sounded slightly timid and minimal beside the huge and impressive concerto but it conjured an even more powerful applause than before from the audience!

However, the highlight of the evening for me, by far was the Prokofiev! When most people think of a ballet, they immediately think of little girls in frilly dresses or graceful and beautifully elegant women in leotards dancing on tiptoes. Romeo and Juliet is something entirely different! Nearly everyone will have heard the music from the start of the apprentice and even on TV, sped up twice the correct tempo it still sounds grand and terrifying. But when you are sat in front of a huge orchestra, it sounds like it cause an earthquake! The raw power of the bassy trombones and the solid thumb of the bass drum shake through the entire floor. The screaming strings over the top playing one of the most recognisable and majestic tunes in modern pop culture; It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. I certainly wouldn’t link it to little girls in frilly dresses!

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet manages to fit discord, syncopation, heart-wrenchingly beautiful tunes and painfully clashing chords into one stunning piece of work. And we only heard 6 of the 20 or more pieces from the whole ballet! It throws everyone off balance and conjures emotional reactions from everyone! I thoroughly recommend it for anyone who enjoys music in any form!

Jack Cullimore, aged 17 Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier with James Ehnes on violin Lighthouse, Poole Wednesday 26th January 2011

©Christian Lawson