The Britten Sinfonia Orchestral Company celebrated their 20th birthday with three special performances, and Venue made sure to join them when the Norwich Theatre Royal took their turn to play host.
The evening began with the introduction of the Britten Sinfonia Academy, a youth orchestra hand picked and mentored by the company. Rising composer Alissa Firsova priemered her Gallo Variations; the piece was comissioned especially for the celebration and the youth academy’s performance was a perfect beginning to the evening, any inexperience was handled deftly by the concert master who led them gently through the mercurial first piece.
The second piece performed, and arguably the highlight of the evening, was Rakastava, Op. 14 as composed by Sibelius. This piece was lighter than the first and with the leadership and gentle touch of acclaimed Finnish violinist, Pekka Kuusisto, the ensemble was heard to sway and fall in a delicate harmony.
The audience responded with delight, and here and there people were even seen daring to clap before the alotted ‘time of praise’ in which Britten Sinfonia would stand and beam smiles that grew with the applause. Well maybe it was Venue who applauded early, but nothing gets us going like a drop of Sibelius on a Tuesday night.
The performance continued with a rendition of Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor, and it was during this piece that the star of the show emerged; the enigmatic Bill Lockhart playing Timpani and Percussion.
Venue sat with bated breath as he raised high into the air what is easily the most understated orchestral instrument, the triangle, and only when the tension amongst audience and musicians alike became too much to bare did he strike it, signalling the cadence and end of the movement.
Thomas Gould took the role of concert master in James MacMillan’s One, the second piece of the evening that had been comissioned especially for the celebration. Gould’s style was far removed from Kuusisto’s, as he leapt and swayed around the stage sharing his flare with the ensemble who responded with joyful enthusiasm.
The final piece of the evening was Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, this proved to be an odd choice for last, as when the piece finally seemed to be building up it ended rather flatly.
However, the reappearance of the youth academy for this last piece was met with rapturous applause all round, and it seemed fitting that a celebration of 20 years of success was concluded with the integration of Britten Sinfonia’s future, with the stars of their past.