“Bramwell Tovey proved why he is the right man for the job”–Providence Journal review

Photo by DavidCooper

BRAMWELL TOVEY

From the Providence Journal

Tovey and the RI Philharmonic have spectacular night

“Tovey looked totally at ease on the podium …was in complete command, making for one of the best Philharmonic outings in some time”

New Rhode Island Philharmonic conductor Bramwell Tovey proved why he is the right man for the job, with an arresting rendition of Gustav Holst’s sometimes tender, often bombastic The Planets.

We’ve been able to witness Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s new conductor, on the podium and at the keyboard for some Gershwin by way of an encore.

But last night at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, we encountered Tovey the composer, as he led the second program of his inaugural season with a jazzy, upbeat score of his Urban Runway, an homage to shoppers on Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue.

Channing Gray
Providence Journal Classical Music Critic

Interestingly, Tovey’s brief but supercharged piece shared the first half of the program with Samuel Barber’s melting violin concerto, which by contrast was tender, introverted and all about the heart—not about a passion for designer clothes.

But the breaking news last night was that Tovey, a Grammy winner with an impressive résumé, proved why he is the right man for the job, with a spectacular rendition of Gustav Holst’s sometimes tender, often bombastic The Planets.

Granted, there was an army of musicians on stage, including two harpists and an organist, and that made for rafter-rattling climaxes in the popular Mars, which opens the massive work with the thundering drums of war, and Jupiter, with a central hymn that I’m guessing had most fans struggling to hold back tears.

Sad to say, I couldn’t stay to hear “Neptune,” with its haunting women’s choir, this time from members of the Providence Singers.

With Tovey, a real talker-in-charge, concerts are running long. He not only gave a blow-by-blow of his own work, but rambled on about the Holst, about old age and huffing and puffing to climb the stairs at The Vets.

There were also two much deserved encores from violinist James Ehnes, who played with such class in the Barber. Encores now appear to be mandatory at Philharmonic concerts, even when, as in this case, it was time for intermission.

Much as I loved Ehnes’ playing, I thought his choice of a Ysaÿe solo sonata, dark and difficult stuff, was off the mark. But his solo Bach was divine.

The orchestra, now celebrating 75 years, was in great shape throughout the evening, sounding especially sweet in the slow movement of the Barber, thanks to Cheryl Bishkoff’s heartfelt oboe solos.

But Tovey could do no wrong in The Planets. He looked totally at ease on the podium, but was in complete command, making for one of the best Philharmonic outings in some time.