Overture, dedicated by the composer to members of British orchestras, set the tone.
The Elgar-devoted first half of the evening began with a Cockaigne
overture which charmed and rose above its hackneyed swagger.
While Elgar's jaunty Cockaigne
Overture was swallowed whole by the space, Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, played with luscious, concentrated sweetness, and with chorister-like clarity of tone from the sopranos, remained the most satisfying piece.
True, he had played these variations with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s, along with the Cockaigne
Overture, and he recorded several of the marches as fillers on the companion studio recording to this Royal Festival Hall performance.
The work culminated in a setting for soprano and orchestra of a song entitled The Heavenly Life, a sort of Land of Cockaigne
fantasy about the abundance food, music and fun, all served up by the saints in the next life.
The programme began and ended with two works linked to London: Elgar's Cockaigne
Overture (In London Town) and Vaughan Williams' London Symphony.
Elgar's Overture Cockaigne
(In London Town) follows, then comes Bryn Terfel as the soloist in Delius's Sea Drift.
10pm (Fri-Tue) QUEEN''S HALL ARTS CENTRE, HEXHAM Beaumont Street (01434 652477) Charlie Chaplin Short Comedies (): Thu 8pm STAR AND SHADOW CINEMA, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Stepney Bank (0191 261 0066) I''m A Fool + The Bells Of Cockaigne
(): Mon 4pm Princess Iron Fan (Tie Shan Gong Zhu) (): Sun 4pm Reel News (): Wed 7.
But even public officials in the Land of Cockaigne
are concerned about law-enforcement and health.
This is followed by a bizarre tenor masquerading as a swan roasting on a spit, who gives way to a portrait of a disgraced, drunken Abbot ("I am the abbot of Cockaigne
and my assembly is one of drinkers"), and concludes with a dizzy drinking song that catalogues all who drink, from libertines to Christians to loose sisters to the Pope to the mistress to the old lady to mother; everyone drinks--and damn those who object.
Under Petrenko's watchful gaze and baton, the orchestra will also appear twice in the Shanghai Concert Hall where they will perform Elgar's Cockaigne
and Enigma Variations and Shostakovich's Symphony No 15, while the much loved John Lennon Songbook will be conducted by John Wilson.
For now, the photographs in Gayle Chong Kwan's Veduta Romantica and Cockaigne
exhibitions are well worth a look in the Public Space Galleries.