Friday, December 10, 2021

BBC Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Finnegan Downie Dear [pictured],, who won last year’s Mahler Conducting Competition, opened this concert with Sarah Lianne Lewis’s ten-minute Creatures of Dust and Dreams, its exuberant and spiralling start turning into a subtle and varied web of sounds (including multiphonics) and expressions. I’d like to hear more of Lewis’s music,, and did so during the interval, a recording of Mind the Gap (also BBCNOW), which further enhanced her composing credentials. Next, John Woolrich’s early-1990s Viola Concerto, a Cheltenham Festival commission for Paul Silverthorne, seven songs-without-words, farewells, the score including quotations from or allusions to operas by Monteverdi, Mozart (Così), Wagner (Tristan), and others. The music is poetic and poignant, mostly slow and reflective, viola as singer, and holds the attention through its quiet intensity, certain aspects of scoring, and via this sympathetic and finely gauged performance, Timothy Ridout and Downie Dear mutually focussed, orchestra sensitively blended. Finally, an often-magical account of Ravel’s Mother Goose, given complete, Downie Dear judging to a nicety timbre, dynamics and eloquent phrasing to create a half-hour storybook, rapturous and colourful, drawing the listener into a fairy-tale world; and, whether solos or as an ensemble, there was some very personable playing.