The refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall was reopened by the Chineke! Orchestra, whose debut concert, three years ago, was one of the last events to be held in the QEH before its temporary closure. The hall itself now looks striking, with its gleaming redesigned foyer, and squeaky clean auditorium, from which layers of accumulated grime have been stripped away. The stage, meanwhile, has been widened, and the acoustic, always fine, strikes me as fractionally warmer than before. Chineke!, which gives a platform to black and minority ethnic players, sounded wonderful in it.
Anthony Parnther conducted, and the first half flanked the world premiere of Daniel Kidane’s Dream Song with exuberant performances of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade in A Minor – the first piece Chineke! played in public, on the same stage, in 2015 – and the overture The Building of the House by Benjamin Britten, who conducted the opening QEH concert in 1967.
Dream Song is an ambitious, densely scored setting, for baritone , choir (the Chineke! Chorus) and orchestra, of fragments from Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, which underpins a declamatory vocal line with insistent brass riffs and choral tone clusters, though the textures brighten as we reach the final assertion of “Let freedom ring.”
Beethoven’s Fourth symphony came after the interval, in a high voltage interpretation that maintained a fine balance between detail and elan. The slow movement, which can drag if imperfectly handled, was particularly beautiful, with graceful strings and superb woodwind. The finale was edge-of-your-seat stuff, blending rhythmic precision and energy with heady elation. Chineke! go from strength to strength. A most exhilarating evening.
- The concert is on BBC iPlayer until 9 May.