Players manage to showcase every nuance of Holst’s soundscapes

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Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra The Dome, 
Sunday March 22.

Perhaps it was appropriate that The Planets Op 32 by Holst eclipsed the rest of the programme at the Dome, two days after attention was focused on the real thing in the heavens.

Holst’s everlastingly popular work has undeniable gravitational pull for audiences and the fact that conductor Barry Wordsworth was brought back several times by an appreciative audience showed how well the orchestra had played.

Holst really constructed a collection of soundscapes and the orchestra successfully showcased every nuance from the disturbing dissonance of Mars to the elegance of Jupiter, with its gorgeous “I vow to Thee My Country melody.” Strange then, that the Bringer of Jollity brought little joy to Holst. He was said to have hated the popularity of the Planets.

Walton’s Cello Concerto was superbly played with great range and contrast by soloist Raphael Wallfisch. He showed special dexterity early in the electric second movement, aided by some fine violin playing and punctuated by strong brass. Yet the feeling persisted despite great musicianship all round that this concerto too often fails to connect on an emotional level compared with others.

The brief and seldom performed orchestral Fantaisie Espagnole, nine minutes long, is known to conductor Barry Wordsworth, as he recorded a version of the piece with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 1994.

Wordsworth ensured the orchestra extracted every ounce of vitality and fun from this unusual piece by Lord Berners. He also had good news for Philharmonic fans when he told them he would be conducting next season, despite reports that he is “hanging up his baton” after being made the orchestra’s conductor laureate. Wordsworth, 67, told the Dome audience: “Next season I am doing six of those concerts. It is not goodbye by any means.”

Speaking of the financial challenges the orchestra faced he said: “We now have the difficulties of two years ago well behind us, and we look forward to a very good future.”