Review: Acclaimed pianist Howard Shelley impresses at Dome

Howard Shelley. Picture by Eric Richmond

Howard Shelley. Picture by Eric Richmond

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Howard Shelley with Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, Brighton Dome, March 6

Clearly there was much mutual admiration at the Dome on Sunday and it was the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra faithful who reaped the benefits.

Acclaimed pianist Howard Shelley has been a hit with audiences since his recital debut 45 years ago but is also an accomplished conductor, having conducted all four London symphony orchestras since his debut in the genre with the LSO in 1985.

There seemed no doubt the BPO, with most of their principal players back in the fold, were impressed with both Shelley’s expert playing of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2 and his equally consummate conducting of Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 (the Scottish).

Taking the baton in the absence of conductor laureate Barry Wordsworth, who returns for the final concert of the season on March 20, Shelley ensured the pace of all three memorable works was maintained throughout and any mutual admiration between conductor and orchestra easily stretched to regulars or those farsighted enough to book tickets for a highly popular programme.

The start was delayed slightly because some concertgoers had difficulties en route due to a key road closure and train disruption but it was well worth the wait for everyone privileged to be present.

The final concert in the programme on Sunday week (March 20) will feature the BPO’s beloved Brighton Festival Chorus, along with soprano Elin Pritchard, baritone Nicholas Lester and pianist Rob Clark. The big choral work is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No 1 (A Sea Symphony), spanning around an hour and comprising the second half after a first half of Lenny Bernstein’s Symphony No 2 (The Age of Anxiety) and the Derby Day Overture by William Alwyn.

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