The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) visited Kingston on Remembrance Day last weekend, bringing with it some of the Romantic era’s best work.
The concert, entitled Love & War at the Rose, featured pieces both rousing and emotionally draining, from John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever to Richard Wagner’s prelude to Tristan und Isolde.
Performed at the Rose Theatre to a small but intimate crowd, the concert was a homecoming for conductor Anthony Inglis, who lives ten minutes from the theatre with his wife and three children.
Opening the concert was Mikhail Glinka’s overture to his five-act fairy tale opera, Russlan & Ludmilla. A raucous and upbeat work, instantly recognisable as Russian, the overture immediately drew the audience in and set the tone for the rest of the performance.
Continuing with a waltz from Johann Strauss II and one of Sousa’s American marches, the orchestra then settled in to bring two pieces from local composers: Romance for Violin & Orchestra by Inglis, and They Shall Grow Not Old by E.A. Collis.
Originally written to honour the British Armed Forces, Collis’ piece included an introductory poem from Binyon read by Lt. Sally Lawrence-Archer in commemoration of Remembrance Day. Collis also adapted the piece especially for the concert to accommodate two soloists from the Kingston Music Service, Peter Lidbetter on clarinet and Eoin Johnson on flute.
Closing the first half was Pytor Tchaikovsky’s haunting Fantasy Overture from Romeo & Juliet, preparing the audience for an epic second half of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Wagner, John Williams and two more works from Tchaikovsky.
The concert finale, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, was a special treat for the Kingston audience as seven local children from the Kingston Music Service, aged 14-17, had the opportunity to join the orchestra in playing the piece’s grand closing.
Inglis did a wonderful job not only in his conducting but also in engaging the audience between pieces, exuding his passion for each work through interesting background stories and creating intimacy through personal reflection and humor.
Though American violinist and intended soloist Gareth Johnson was absent, due to unexpected issues with the UK Border Agency, the orchestra did not miss a beat.
First violinist Matthew Strivener filled in for Johnson magnificently, the deep sense of longing emanating from his violin a welcome compliment to Inglis’ Romance and John’s Williams’ haunting Solo Violin Theme from Schindler’s List.
Anthony Inglis and the NSO did a wonderful job creating a gripping and fanciful evening of music, it is a shame more in the community were not there to hear it.