wed 22/11/2017

A Night Under the Stars: Latin Spirit, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

A Night Under the Stars: Latin Spirit, Royal Festival Hall

A Night Under the Stars: Latin Spirit, Royal Festival Hall

Charity gala with Latin flavour keeps musical standards consistently high

Miloš Karadaglić. Photo: Lars Borges/Mercury ClassicsMiloš Karadaglić. Photo: Lars Borges/Mercury Classics

London homelessness charity The Passage was set up in 1980 and has been growing steadily so that it now provides a day centre, short-term hostel and long-term housing in an effort to help street sleepers get their lives back on track. Its annual "A Night Under the Stars" gala concert is the central event on its fundraising calendar, and assembles an extremely high standard of musician. The evening was compered by Jo Brand and Petroc Trelawny, both safe pairs of hands in their distinct ways.

The Orion Orchestra, a cross-conservatoire group of students and recent graduates, was set up ten years ago by conductor Toby Purser for this event, and has gone on to have a life of its own at the Aberystwyth MusicFest and elsewhere. Purser was unable to make this year’s concert, but no matter – Edward Gardner stepped in. That’s what’s known in the sporting world as a super sub.

Opening the concert with the Prelude from Carmen, the orchestra immediately made clear that the youth of its members wasn’t going to sound like inexperience, offering a very focused ensemble which belied the fact it meets only a few times each year.

The almost comically suave violinist Charlie Siem then came on for a typically swashbuckling performance of Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso before ceding the stage to a selection of highlights from Carmen. Patricia Bardon, with a warm and luscious tone, was joined by the superbly engaged Streetwise Opera chorus for the Habanera, bass-baritone Duncan Rock was suitably imperious with the Toreador Song, before Bardon returned for the seductive Seguidille.

Perhaps the starriest musical star was up next, the sells-CDs-like-hotcakes guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, with a very assured performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez (his recording of the concerto was released earlier this year on the Mercury label). A little amplification for the guitar, as is common for concerto performances in big halls, allowed him to concentrate on producing a lovely tone, and gave Gardner and the orchestra a bit of breathing room in terms of dynamic range.

The superbly subtle and virtuosic accordionist Ksenija Sidorova was up next with some Piazzolla, joined by violinist Thomas Gould for Libertango and Karadaglić for Oblivion.

The final item was a showpiece for the orchestra, Ravel’s Boléro, with each soloist in turn enjoying their moment in the limelight. Gardner paced the long crescendo just right, ably assisted by the patient snare drummer. The crashing final chords brought an impressive close to a very enjoyable evening of consistently high musical standards.

To donate to The Passage, visit www.justgiving.com/nuts14

The orchestra immediately made clear that the youth of its members wasn’t going to sound like inexperience

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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