REVIEW: A wonderfully energetic concert from Howard Shelley and the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

Howard Shelley
Howard Shelley

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, Brighton Dome, Sunday, February 11

The accomplished Howard Shelley often conducts from the keyboard but was left flushed by both his success and his exertions in almost equal measure after a masterly performance with the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No 1.

Shelley, now in his 33rd year as a professional conductor, certainly has vast experience and expertise in both fields and the way he leapt to his feet from the piano stool whenever time allowed belied his near 68 years.

It was a memorably energetic performance that earned the heartfelt appreciation of both orchestra and the Dome audience in the sixth of eight concerts in the 93rd BPO season.

The popular Mendelssohn work, written at the age of only 21 after a creatively fruitful visit to Italy, is one of the most frequently played piano concertos of the Romantic age and for this concert was sandwiched between Schubert’s Symphony No 8 (the Unfinished) and Dvorak’s Symphony No 6. Both are grand works, with the Schubert having the more memorable tunes (despite there being only two movements) but the Dvorak making up for any shortcomings in that department (and that is, perhaps, a rarity for the Czech giant) by providing a big and lively sound to hold the attention throughout.

The Russians are coming for the next offering on March 4 when popular guest conductor Stephen Bell is joined by the Halle’s principal trumpet Gareth Small for a performance of Arutunian’s showpiece concerto with its soulful melodies, technical difficulties and exciting gypsy strains.

Also on the programme are one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous symphonies (No 4), Glinka’s Overture: A Life for the Tsar and Mussorgsky’s demonic tone poem Night on a Bare Mountain. It promises to be a lively offering.

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