Philharmonia and Martin Fröst: Romeo and Juliet Forever at the Royal Festival Hall
It’s characteristic of a great work of art to still be inspiring new artists over 400 years after its initial creation. To celebrate the wonder of Romeo and Juliet, Philharmonia bring together three pieces that celebrate Shakespeare’s timeless classic in a concert that is thoughtful and evocative, but, above all, supremely entertaining.
In the capable hands of conductor Pekka Kuusisto, they open with the short Sinfonia from Bellini’s 1830 opera Capuleti e I Montecchi. Typically of a Romantic opera, it is full of drama, and the orchestra breathe life into the already energetic score, imbuing it with an uplifting spirit.
This is followed by the UK premiere of Anna Clyne’s Weathered, a wide-ranging and complex clarinet concerto. The piece consists of five movements, each of which describes a different “material”: Metal, Heart, Stone, Wood, and Earth. As such, it ranges in mood from lively and sometimes humorous melodies in Stone to the heart-wrenchingly somber and slow tunes of Heart. Soloist Martin Fröst’s playing is astonishingly acute and full of movement – he brings an incredible flair and understanding of his instrument to the table that makes Clyne’s composition come to life. A particular highlight is Wood, which fuses eerie sounds with an intoxicating longing that lingers long after the movement has ended.
After the interval, the concert returns to its theme with Tchaikovsky’s angelic Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Though it’s is a piece that’s often performed, Kuusisto brings it to life effortlessly with wide expressive movements and a poignancy that serves the music excellently well. The interpretation is perhaps a little hasty at the start, but he tickles out the wide contrasts in emotion throughout in an effort that is a joy to hear.
Philharmonia conclude the evening with Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. It’s good to be reminded why Bernstein’s musical had the impact of a bomb in 1957: it’s outstanding stuff that never ceases to amaze, even 60 years on. Kuusisto’s sense of timing in this complex piece (that collages nine sections from the musical) is spot-on, culminating in an experience that never lets go.
The end result is a fantastic event, overall. While the inclusion of Weathered might seem odd, given the general theme, it’s still a great piece in its own right, rounding off a brilliant concert that is well worth the time.
Photos: Robert Piwko
For further information and future events visit Philharmonia and Martin Fröst: Romeo and Juliet Forever’s website here.