One hundred years since the birth of Daniel Jones was celebrated with pride in Brangwyn Hall on Saturday 6th October.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, began the celebrations with typically Jonesian jagged swathes of complex sentimentality, performing his Eleventh Symphony with exactitude and emotion. A waif-like flute solo played ethereally by Matthew Featherstone offered a moment of pure serenity to a self-consciously de-constructivist oeuvre. Crisp and experimental, attentive to both Jones’ finesse and canny recycling, the convoluted and introverted theme was lustrously played by the BBC NOW.
Julian Lloyd Webber and his Barjankst Stradivarius (c. 1690) took centre stage to begin Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85 with great familiarity. This ‘real large work’ was indeed ‘good and alive’, as Elgar himself quipped. With the undulating orchestra behind him, Webber respectfully alluded to Beatrice Harrison, Jaqueline du Pre and Mstilav Rostropovich in both phrasing and dynamics, unifying a previously disparate relationship between the three interpretations. Seamless bowing and technical prowess produced droplets of liquid notes with a honeyed tone, seducing an already-entranced audience. At the finish, silent astonishment and awe was shattered by insuperable, foot-stomping acclaim.
Leading to dark passages, Vaughan Williams’ Second (London) Symphony ventured into depths unknown, at once evoking unanimous terror and intrigue. A petrifying roar from assertive conducting and responsive performing startled any hint of dormant complacency. Mysterious and uncontrollably compelling, the BBC NOW were, in a word, sublime.