Brighton Festival

The Dome, Brighton, Sunday 28 May 2017

Clearly somebody decided to end this year’s Brighton Festival with a bang. The works chosen, by Copland and Adams, must be some of the loudest classical music available and were almost too loud within the relative limits of The Dome.

Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is very familiar but rarer live so that its raw edge and bombast strike somewhat uncomfortably, particularly when the brass is not fully coordinated at the start. The composer’s Lincoln Portrait followed. An equally crowd pleasing work, the orchestral sections from the Britten Sinfonia were well handled by conductor Diego Masson, but the text from Maryann Plunkett, despite being amplified, was often inaudible.

Thankfully the second half fared much better. John Adams Harmonium may be an early excursion into minimalism but it is highly effective. The opening setting of John Donne’s Negative Love is unexpectedly extrovert for so complex a text but full of shifting harmonies which were negotiated with aplomb by Brighton Festival Chorus. The following poems by Emily Dickinson seem more in keeping with Adam’s approach and Wild Nights is particularly successful. The intense sense of sexual tension building, like the storm, to a massive explosion is brilliantly captured and, on this occasion, as well executed. The rapid heart-beats continue in the double basses until the last seconds die away. A fine end, eventually,  to the festival.

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