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BBC Concert Orchestra in Fairfax

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Read my review published today in the Style section of the Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, BBC Concert Orchestra
Washington Post, November 8, 2010

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Vaughan Williams / Alwyn /
Bowen / Parry, BBC Concert Orchestra, J. Wilson
The BBC Concert Orchestra made a stop on its whirlwind American tour at the George Mason University Center for the Arts on Saturday night. This group is both a classical and pops ensemble, having played a concert backing up Neil Diamond, for example, just before leaving for the United States. The looming cuts to public arts funding in Great Britain, part of the British government's drastic attempts to cut its fiscal deficit, may put this innovative group in danger.

Keith Lockhart, the new principal conductor, is leading two alternating programs on this tour, including the all-Russian one heard in Fairfax. The first two pieces sounded underrehearsed and pedestrian, perhaps reflecting the ensemble's punishing tour schedule -- 15 cities in 20 days. The woodwinds sagged a bit in Balakirev's "Overture on Three Russian Folk Songs," the tone going sour in exposed places. Likewise, the violins sounded out of sorts in Prokofiev's First Symphony, scratching their way through the coy theme of the first movement and missing the grace of its alternation of very high and low notes. [Continue reading]
BBC Concert Orchestra
With Keith Lockhart (conductor) and Ilya Yakushev (piano)
Music by Balakirev, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff
George Mason University Center for the Arts

  • The other program featured Mozart's overture to Marriage of Figaro, selections from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream music, with Yakushev in Mendelssohn’s first piano concerto, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5 (reviewed at the Thursday performance in Worcester, Mass.)
  • Review of concert with Neil Diamond, at the Roundhouse in London shortly before leaving on the tour
  • They are champions of contemporary music, too -- Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is the ensemble’s current composer-in-residence

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