In my negligence, I failed to blog about yesterday’s concert ahead of time. Well, except in my comment on the personnel. I much enjoyed it, both the orchestral first half, and singing in the second half.
Of particular note was the premier of a newly-commissioned work: Alfie Pugh’s symphonic suite Exeter Cityscapes, the second (and more substantial) work in the orchestral half of the concert. I had no idea what to expect, and I have to say I was very impressed. This is a work worthy of a place in the regular repertoire.
Like one or two other new works I’ve encountered in recent years, this work is unashamedly in the English pastoral tradition of a century or so ago. It followed Bax’s atmospheric tone poem Tintagel, and in terms of sound-and-feel one could describe it as more of the same. Gorgeously lush orchestral textures and lovely melodic fragments, with a harmonic context that is tonal and easy on the ear, but far from bland!
A more modernistic touch compared to the English Pastoral tradition was a lively and brilliantly-conceived use of percussion. I understand Pugh himself is a percussionist, and although he wasn’t playing this concert, the mastery shows through. Though more prominent than in earlier repertoire, this is far from the aggressive in-your-face percussion of some 20th-century music. It blends seamlessly with the rest of the orchestra, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. I struggle to think of any good comparison.
The one moment I felt slightly let down was when, after a slow second movement, the third movement turned out also to be slow. I guess that says something about how close it (otherwise) felt to listening to a regular classical symphony. The fourth movement started with a bang, and made a proper symphonic finale!
Congratulations to the composer, and to all concerned.
 Look-and-feel in the context of music 😀