TRINITY LABAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Blackheath Halls
Any concert by Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra will always be memorable for the awesome musicianship of its young members. If it’s then bookended by two remarkable contributions it becomes extraordinary.
That was certainly the case at Blackheath Halls when the programme comprised a new piece by TL composer Josh Kaye, century-old works from Hungary and Sweden and a tour de force performance by cellist Talia Erdal of a 20thcentury Russian masterwork.
Kaye had the task of opening the concert - never easy - with Calling For Help which was inspired by the heroic labours of overworked NHS junior doctors. It may have been short but its restless tempo, melody and harmonies cleverly captured the emotional and physical stress of front-line medical care. From where I was sitting, what I assume were technical issues made the solo cello part, played by Miguel Villeda Ceron, hard to hear from time to time. But in a sense that felt apt – young medics frequently complain they go unheard.
Calling For Help is a taster for an opera Kaye is currently writing which is due to be performed at Blackheath Halls next summer. If it’s all as good, I can’t wait.
The remainder of the first half of this concert was given over to Zoltán Kodály’s Variations On A Hungarian Folk Song (The Peacock) which required the 70-plus musicians, conducted by Martin André, to explore pretty much the whole gamut of musical moods in this lovely collection of 16 pieces plus a finale. They came through with flying colours.
The second half opened with the rousing Concert Overture in D major by Elfrida Andrée, a Swede who deserves to be much better known both for her writing and her pioneering work on behalf on woman artists, a theme close to the heart of Trinity Laban.
Her work was followed by one written by Sergei Prokofiev, one of the acknowledged giants of 20th century music. But did he – or indeed anyone else - ever create anything as fiendishly complex as his three-movement Sinfonia Concertante? I think not.
Award-winner Erdal appeared to take it in her stride, however, even though some of the passages seemed to border on the impossible. At one moment her fingers were a blur as they navigated a torrent of demisemiquavers, the next she was playing pizzicato chords with an almost feral ferocity. Her extraordinary touch was summed up for me in two bow-strokes - a full-blooded downward flourish that screamed power followed instantly by an upward stroke of almost miraculous delicacy as her left hand created a glissando of lovely harmonics. It was simply breathtaking. The orchestra was marvellous, too, never once flagging beneath the hail of Prokofiev’s relentless musical demands.
Erdal rounded off the evening with an unaccompanied solo spot in which she discarded her bow and, like a flamenco guitarist, used her hands both to pluck out a melody on the strings and drum on the wooden body. She also sang an accompaniment that was mournfully exquisite. It might have been slightly out of keeping with the symphonic mood of the evening but actually it added yet another extraordinary layer of contrast to what was already an extraordinary event. Bravo, tutti!