Above : Composer Jim Coyle, whose new work ‘Dancing with Billy Bray’ received a world premiere by TMO in this concert. Featured image : TMO Principal Cello Ezmi Pepper, soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
The Metropolitan Orchestra ended its 2018 Met Concert series in very fine form with a trio of exciting events making up the programme for the orchestra and audience. A work from local composer Jim Coyle in world premiere began the evening. A TMO principal collaborated as soloist with the orchestra, showcasing TMO’s comprehensive talent and capabilities.
The third feature of this concert, ‘Drama’, was a major work of the orchestral repertoire being presented for the audience to discover or revisit. This work further illustrated TMO’s skill as an interpreter of significant works from the canon. They have often filled the role of audience educator and provider of significant listening experiences for the lovers of orchestral music.
Dancing With Billy Bray for orchestra by Jim Coyle was a stunning opening to the event. The narrative traced with challenging energy aspects of a larger than life character in Cornwall. during the nineteenth century. When depicting the person, actions and environment of the miner turned preacher, Coyle wrote for orchestra with impressive subtlety and detail.
The sparkling opening to this work came complete with impressively rendered piccolo gestures. Moving forward from here with impressive and expansive momentum, the shifting musical vistas allowed sections of TMO to shine and keep the expressive journey very alive.
The work was more than filmic or programmatic as it presented the listener with smooth contrasts and constant freshness. It will endure as a suitably dramatic, instantly enjoyable and accessible work to be included on any global stage. The precision needed for giving this work an effective premiere due to its concise musical illustration was ably supplied by TMO working so well as usual with dynamic conductor Sarah-Grace Williams.
The popular Cello Concerto in E minor Op 85 by Elgar was heard next in a beautifully shaped version by TMO principal cellist Ezmi Pepper. This measured performance had a pleasing emphasis on Elgar’s lyricism and unique approach to the concerto form. Ezmi Pepper’s performance was a deeply moving moment in this final Met Concert for 2018 and indeed a highlight for the entire season.
Alongside Pepper’s neat bravura and shiny upper register filigree were many sections of carefully crafted voice leading. The audience was thrilled by this edge-of-the-seat musicianship and engaging playing which continually provided a very touching soundscape for listeners to lose themselves in.
As always, TMO provided very accommodating accompaniment for the collaborating soloist. In this concert especially, subtitled ‘Drama’, we saw the orchestra and its principal-turned-concerto soloist tackle the dramatic and emotional elements of Elgar’s compelling work as a completely comfortable and unified force. Shifts between solo and orchestral part seizing the focus and initiative to other sections of joint conversation were seamless here.
The concert’s drama continued after interval when Sarah-Grace Williams drew together all ingredients of César Franck’s sprawling Symphony In D minor. The considerable amount of repetition in this work and extended sections building slowly towards full bodied climaxes were expertly varied and sustained.
This was yet another worthwhile programming and repertoire choice from Sarah-Grace Williams as artistic director and chief conductor. All sections of the orchestra worked hard and successfully to deliver Franck’s unique style of nineteenth century expression.
TMO’s fans and followers were fortunate enough to have the chance to revisit or discover this rarely heard work in all its splendour. On this occasion TMO presented this work in a slick package which finished the 2018 Met Concert season in impressive style.