Royal Albert Hall, London
John Wilson’s orchestra launched the celebrations of Vaughan Williams’ centenary, gave a fresh account of the Enigma Variations and played music by Walton, Bax and Huw Watkins
Originally founded as a recording orchestra, John Wilson’s Sinfonia of London, its players hand-picked from orchestras and chamber ensembles from the UK and abroad, made its live debut at last year’s Proms with a carefully considered, albeit sensational programme about the decline and fall of imperial Vienna. The repertory for this year’s visit – the start, one hopes, of regular annual appearances – could not have been more different: British music, familiar or otherwise, was the focus of a concert bookended by Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and including music by William Walton, Arnold Bax and Huw Watkins.
As we’ve come to expect from Wilson and his Sinfonia, this was an evening compounded of excitement and insight, with terrifically incisive playing across the board. Walton’s Partita, a witty, bravura showpiece commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra in 1957, blended elegance with swaggering elan, while Bax’s Tintagel, with its post-Wagnerian echoes and and resonances, all turbulent majesty and surging opulence, was a thing of uneasy beauty. Watkins, meanwhile, was represented by his Flute Concerto, a neoclassical work of fantastic difficulty written for Adam Walker, who gave its premiere with the LSO in 2014. He also played it here with a warm, dark tone, breathtaking virtuosity and considerable depth of feeling, while Wilson teased out all the subtle colours and strengths of Watkins’ orchestration.
Continue reading… July 17, 2022 at 03:57PM Tim Ashley