THE WELSH SINFONIA: ORCHESTRAPAEDIA | LIVE REVIEW
Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama, Cardiff
Thurs 18 Apr
words: LOWRI MARTINSON
I had eagerly awaited the Welsh Sinfonia’s concert since interviewing the composer Roxanna Panufnik in preparation for her premiere of Orchestrapeadia, and I am pleased to report that the evening was a great success for all involved. The Welsh Sinfonia is a Cardiff-based professional chamber orchestra of up to 35 musicians, who rank among the elite orchestras throughout the UK and internationally. Dora Stoutzker Hall in the Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama provided a beautiful and intimate venue for the enigmatic conducting of Mark Eager and the music of the selected composers.
Highlights of the evening included: the debut performance of the flautist Emma Halnan, who delivered an animated performance of Ibert’s Flute Concerto In D; a powerful performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No 8; and Panufnik’s own composition Orchestrapeadia, which explored and illustrated an abstract 24 hours in the life of an anthropomorphic chamber orchestra, a format taking its inspiration from Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra. Orchestrapeadia explored the dynamic relationship between image and sound, re-imagining the function of a chamber orchestra through astute imagination and graphic design, a response to the growing demand for visual stimuli in contemporary culture. The use of illustrations illuminated the music by providing an extra bridge between the listener and the performer: a bold and untypical move in the classical music sphere, but an affective one.
Highly visual and sonorous due to the innovative combination of classical, jazz and Riverdance-style sounds, the gorgeous melodies and illustrations consisted of mysterious percussions, shimmering flutes and piccolos, cranky oboes, swooping clarinets, a booming bass, fiery Mexican trumpets, sexy alpine horns and romantic strings. It was a strikingly unique piece that complemented the lively personality of its composer. The vibrant and humorous illustrations by Jem Panufnik (Roxanna’s brother), which were projected behind the orchestra, complimented the music exquisitely. Notably captivating images included the duelling, sombrero-wearing Mexican trumpet, the star cross’d lovers violin and cello and my personal favourite, butterfly flutes. It was pleasure to attend such an eclectic gathering of musical and artistic talent in South Wales.