REVIEW: Testament by the BSO at Lighthouse, Poole

There was a great buzz of excitement on Wednesday evening at the first hearing of a new work by the internationally renowned creative titan Mark-Anthony Turnage, writes Tom Wickson.

His new work, Testament, developed from discussions with BSO Chief Conductor, Kirill Karabits, about the on-going conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine. Mr Turnage set works by three Ukrainian poets to be sung by a soprano accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. The work has been co-commissioned by the BSO and Mr Karabits’ German band, Staatskapelle Weimar.

Testament not only captures the anguish caused by the conflict, but also moments of sad reflection. References to refugees and the “unedited lists of the dead” made a distressing parallel with events of the First World War. The soloist was Natalya Romaniw, the Welsh soprano who has Ukrainian heritage. Her true and beautiful voice was matched by her ability to colour the anger, yearning and lament of the poetry.

The works surrounding this newly-minted masterpiece reinforced the Ukrainian theme of the evening. The concert opened with a wonderfully smooth and liquid performance of Les Sirènes by Reinhold Glière.

After the interval, music by probably the greatest Ukrainian composer – Sergei Prokofiev – was performed: the War and Peace Suite. What great and vividly descriptive music it is, especially when given such a rousing, colourful performance as by the BSO, who were on very nimble form all night. So much of Tolstoy’s epic story was conveyed: glittering dance rhythms, romantic love themes and frightening, stormy battles.

Truly this was a night to savour and an occasion to cherish the BSO’s dedication to new music of the highest quality. They concluded with a very appropriate encore: the Russian Sailors Dance from Glière’s ballet, The Red Poppy.