Last Sunday, Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra chose to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams by featuring contributions from musicians directly associated with it. Principle trombonist Iestyn Harding is also an accomplished composer, and his stimulating tone-poem, Song at the Year’s Turning, received its première alongside a spellbinding rendering of V.W.’s sublime The Lark Ascending from violinist Gillian Bradley, herself a former member of the band.
After the interval, we were treated to a fine performance of the composer’s 5th Symphony. Written in 1943 during the height of hostilities, it is a masterpiece of such vision and resonance that it must surely be considered as one of the most sheerly moving compositions in the entire symphonic canon. The commitment and engagement of all the players ensured that the work’s message of hope and optimism in time of conflict and destruction was communicated with all its relevance to a contemporary audience.
Michael Bell’s reign as conductor of the ASO is proving to be something of a Golden Age, as this was one of the most memorable of their concerts I have been fortunate to attend.