Review – 17th March 2012 Concert: Blake Benedictus

Composer thrilled at Island premiere

Last Saturday’s combined IWSO and the IW Cantata Choir concert at the Medina Theatre opened with a captivating performance of Mendelssohn’s popular overture The Hebrides.

The orchestra, guided by the baton of Jonathan Butcher, evoked perfectly the restless and turbulent nature of the work with its moments of tranquillity. Full of wonderful melodies, this piece is a perfect concert opener.

The audience was then treated to Telemann’s Concerto in G major for Viola and Strings.

The soloist, Rosalind Ventris, enthralled with her wonderfully controlled and stylish playing.

The purists might have felt a smaller and more intimate orchestra would have been more appropriate for this baroque genre (and allowed the harpsichord continuo to be heard more) but fortunately this talented soloist was not overwhelmed.

This delightful work presented an opportunity to showcase the string section of the orchestra with a first-rate soloist and was much enjoyed.

The Cantata Choir, musical director Rachel Tweddle, joined the orchestra for the second half to perform Howard Blake’s Benedictus.

This is a challenging work for all concerned but expectations were heightened, and nervous tension increased, as the composer himself had travelled from London to hear the performance.

Benedictus tells the story of a novice’s difficult journey into monastic life and was written for the 1500th anniversary of St Benedict (born 480 CE).

It opens with an evocative viola prelude played by Ventris, who here showed off the expressive capabilities of the viola.

Philip O’Brien (tenor) was superb in the very demanding role of the troubled novice, which requires not just an extensive vocal range but also the technique of ‘speech-song’ (sprechgesang).

Nathan Thomas was excellent in the role of narrator; his diction was clear and well-paced.

The choir looked and sounded fabulous, tackling some tricky eight-part passages with gusto.

Orchestra, choir and soloists produced a memorable and exciting performance, entrancing the audience with dramatic and compelling story telling.

Everyone involved will be pleased I can relate that Howard Blake was absolutely thrilled with the performance.

He felt the conviction with which the emotional drama was conveyed by all the performers was just marvellous.

By Lilian Scaddan, IW County Press. Friday, March 23, 2012

Press Release – 17th March 2012 Concert: Blake Benedictus

Composer to attend concert

Composer Howard Blake will be at Medina Theatre next Saturday, March 17, to hear his work, The Benedictus, performed by the IW Symphony Orchestra and the IW Cantata Choir.

Blake is famous as a pianist, conductor and composer — but his music for the narrated piece The Snowman is his most well-known composition.

He has also composed numerous film scores and concert pieces, as well as liturgical works, such as The Benedictus.

He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1994 received the OBE for services to music.

The Benedictus tells the story of a novice’s journey into monastic life. The piece is linked by themes played by a solo viola and is inspired by the teachings of St Benedict.

In this performance, the role of the novice will be taken by tenor Philip O’Brien, returning to the Island following his performance in the Verdi Requiem in October 2010.

The viola soloist is Rosalind Ventris, a graduate from Cambridge University and the Guildhall School of Music, who has been described by critics as a ‘remarkable talent’.

The part of the narrator will be taken by the head of Medina College, Nathan Thomas.

The choir and orchestra will be conducted by the orchestra’s music director Jonathan Butcher.

Both organisations say they are delighted Howard Blake will be in attendance at the performance.

The orchestra will also perform the overture The Hebrides by Mendelssohn and the Telemann Viola Concerto in G major, featuring soloist Rosalind Ventris.

By Richard Wright, IW County Press. Friday, March 9, 2012