by Christopher Morley
Stephen Johnson is a much respected presenter and writer about music. As we discovered in Saturday’s concert from the remarkable Moscow State Symphony Orchestra he is also an accomplished composer. Behemoth Dances’ bristling energy was generously conveyed by the MSSO under Pavel Kogan’s empowering baton.
Possibly the Russians took an interest in his Behemoth Dances because of Johnson’s passionate interest in the culture of their country. The scenario of this vibrant piece is based on a satirical Russian novel, but we don’t actually need to know that, as this well-imagined score speaks for itself.
Its gripping, urgent opening has something of William Walton’s brio about it, with bold, firmly-etched rhythms riding under confident orchestral sonorities. Darker interludes intervene, and there is particularly atmospheric use of the vibraphone.
Behemoth Dances’ bristling energy was generously conveyed by the MSSO under Pavel Kogan’s empowering baton, with the Hereford-based composer present to acknowledge the immense, well-deserved applause.