For the city audience, which is so used to listening to improvised music (both Indian classical systems work on the idea of oral legacy), a presentation from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with its delicate and organised adagios and canorous climaxes, brought a unique experience to the fore. Organised by Delhi-based cultural organisation Seher, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and British Council, the concert at Siri Fort auditorium on Wednesday evening had moments and movements which, for the lack of a better word, were exquisite, with fine technique and finesse. One of the two highlights of the orchestra was conductor James MacMillan who drew out some fantastic textures. We will bring up the second highlight soon. As for the subtle air of requiescence during the concert, which seemed pleasing to begin with, was broken by applause in the middle of certain movements, creaky chairs and constant opening and shutting of doors. But then the point of concert etiquette is questionable even in most traditional Indian concerts. So what overpowered even the most embarrassing yet somewhat heartwarming moment was when the orchestra played Man dole mera tan dole with the famous ‘been tune’ on violins, cellos, flutes and horn. The integrity and sincerity in the piece permeated through the audience that tirelessly applauded, sometimes too soon for comfort.
Before Man dole featured as a surprise, the 76-piece orchestra opened with German composer Mandelssohn’s The Hebrides, the luminosity of which brought out the landscapes of Scotland almost immediately. But it was Mozart’s Fifth Symphony in A-Major that had the audiences snapped to attention. The three movements of the concerto were brilliantly steered by Nicola Benedetti, the second highlight, whose clarity in notes stood out. But what was interesting about Benedetti was that she didn’t have a swagger, at least during the piece, (she did walk with one) even when she played without any support. Some rhythmic plumpness could have helped. But the melodic variations were
But it was Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, which proved to be an eerie beauty, melancholic in parts and proved to be the most dazzling piece of all. The encore was an exuberant Scottish piece, My love is like a red red rose and gave the feeling of bagpipes being played on the strings.
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The performance never became self-conscious, a death knell for most western classical performances, but was a clean and lucid demonstration of some of the finest pieces known to mankind.