This concert was an unusual programme of music from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, viewing the passing of youth through a lens of nostalgia and sadness but, at the same time, also dreaming of the sheer joy and exuberance of youth.

The opener was Elgar’s The Wand of Youth Suite no. 2. This comprises a set of six dances, written by the composer in his fifties, which hark back to his adolescence. As he wrote, “I am still at heart the dreamy child who used to be found in the reeds by Severn side with a sheet of paper trying to fix sounds and longing for something very great. I am still looking for this.”

Yossif Ivanov © Eric Larrayadieu
Yossif Ivanov
© Eric Larrayadieu

The BSO’s playing was a sheer delight throughout the suite. Joie de vivre abounded, from an expectant March which, after a playfully light and delicate preamble, soon erupted into sheer rumbustiousness and pomp, to the gossamer lightness and mischievous scampering of woodwind throughout “The Little Bells”. The finale to the suite is entitled “The Wild Bears”, taken at a cracking pace, full of crisp and vigorous playing, with great enthusiasm being visibly displayed by the whole orchestra.

Max Bruch started work on his Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor in 1857 but it was not completed until ten years later. Written for the great violinist, Joseph Joachim, it is rich, romantic music, full of passion and beauty. This was perfectly captured by superb playing from Yossif Ivanov.

After a stirring introduction, Ivanov gave a truly virtuosic performance, full of warmth with a gorgeously rich tone from his Stradivarius. His consummate mastery continued in the exquisitely beautiful Adagio which was played with heartfelt passion, while Hill provided direction which ensured the lightest and most delicate support by the orchestra. The Allegro energico fully lived up to its name with the movement being taken at an exhilarating pace, rigorously controlled by Hill. This was a truly enthralling and memorable performance a much-loved work.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Gerald Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality. After such a fine and sunny early Spring day in Poole, this work seemed all the more appropriate.  Written for tenor, mixed chorus and orchestra, the work was begun in the 1930s but was not completed until 1950, when it was given its first performance at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. The work is a setting of Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (a lament for the lost joys and intuitive wonder of childhood). In a pre-concert talk, we were treated to a reading of Wordsworth’s writing by the actor Tom Durham which was warmly received.

The work begins with an orchestral prelude and opening call, with a smooth horn call being finely played by Nicolas Fleury (principal horn). The other-worldly opening illustrates the influence of Vaughan Williams and, as Andrew Burn wrote in the programme notes, “it is as if Finzi were evoking the poet Traherne’s lines, ‘An empty book is like an infant’s soul, in which anything may be written…′”

The BSO and Chorus were on top form in the third stanza which was a delightful romp, conveying the sheer delight of Spring’s frivolity and joy. In direct contrast, the fourth stanza then becomes more sombre and contemplative. The contrast between light and shade very much characterises the work and the BSO, under Hill’s direction, remained ever responsive to the changing moods and demands of Finzi’s music as it ebbed and flowed, conveying the joys of life versus its sorrows.

Throughout the piece, from sensitively played, spacious Finzian melodies, to the beautiful and sublime tenor singing of John Mark Ainsley, as well as Hill’s energy, enthusiasm and masterful direction this was a very fine performance of a heartfelt masterpiece of choral writing.