Rossini’s Thieving Magpie overture opened the concert and was presented as buoyantly as one might expect in such a circumstance. The RPO’s technical excellence really shone through here and every note was crystal clear in a way not often heard in this sort of music. After that Grace Williams’ Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes brought a nod to national pride, which was incredibly well received. A less well-known work than the rest of the programme, this was a highlight for me as the playful nature of the nursery tunes was perfectly captured alongside the subtleties and tone of the orchestral setting.
Having never heard Ravel’s Boléro performed live in full before, this was particularly exciting. My partner looked on wide-eyed as all sorts of new and exciting instruments arrived on stage and they really made their mark in the magnificent sound world of the work. The Boléro basically consists of one passage of music repeated and repeated, the trick of course being to make sure it doesn’t sound like that. Happily Owain and the RPO achieved just that – demonstrating the stunning orchestration and contrasts of dynamics and expression in a way which made the performance utterly mesmerising.
Getting off to a slightly faltering start, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition once in its stride maintained it boldly. A thrilling orchestral piece by anyone’s standards, this was a platform for the RPO’s technical superiority to place miles ahead of the competition. Clarity abounded, but without being boring and the varied emotions and feelings of each ‘picture’ come across brilliantly.
The RPO made a wonderful sound throughout the concert, and I genuinely can’t wait for an opportunity to hear them again. The very appreciate, though sadly not full-to-the-rafters, audience would, I’m sure, say the same.