REVIEW: Brighton Philharmonic concert, Brighton Dome

GUITARIST Craig Ogden excelled playing two greatly contrasting pieces in Sunday’s (February 12) highly entertaining Brighton Philharmonic concert at the Dome.

The performances of Australian-born Ogden also presented the good-sized audience with two aspects of his talent that made different demands on their concentration.

Ogden and an orchestra in superb form vividly laid out the colours and tempos of Spain in Rodrigo’s immensely popular Concierto de Aranjuez.

And the Iberian image was captured sunnily by the orchestra on Emmanuel Chabrier’s enchanting Espana Rhapsody, the fiery and passionate Carmen Suite Number 1, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s brilliantly scored Capriccio Espanol.

All these pieces were relatively easily accessible to the audience with familiar melodies and motifs to open up the music, though far from easy for the orchestra.

However, the audience suddenly found itself out of its comfort zone when Odgen’s fingers flashed brilliantly across the frets in often fractured passages of Nigel Westlake’s intriguing Shadow Dances for Guitar.

Everyone was challenged to interpret the work and mine, for what it is worth, is that the weird sounds and dissonance suggested more Ayers Rock than Andalusia.

Freeform, dance, hints of humour, the orchestra took everything from the score’s eerie world in its confident stride, with brass and woodwind being asked to create weird musical shapes and figures as Ogden took twists and turns into a musical outback. It was a highly accomplished debut outside of Australia for the piece, which deserves a wider audience.

Before the heat and shadows of that walk in the Australian bush, imagery of a softer kind was conjured lovingly by the orchestra in Debussy’s Petite Suite. The whole orchestra lived up to the promise shown by the lovely flute introduction and their playful liveliness in the menuet, where the strings and beguiling cor anglais beautifully captured the romantic lyricism.

There were fine solos throughout the afternoon as the orchestra made the audience feel the music in their souls and Odgen’s talent also invited them to think about something new.

By Phil Dennett