The Golden Road to Samarkand – Joseph Tawadros, Zeb Soames and Britten Sinfonia

Joseph Tawadros


Three Stages of Hindsight [world premiere; arranged Tawadros and orchestrated Alex Palmer]




What a joy of a concert! Superb venue – the wonderful Milton Court concert hall which is the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s new performance venue – fabulous soloists (of which more in a minute) and the small-but-perfectly-formed forces of the Britten Sinfonia and Britten Sinfonia Voices, under the direction of Jamie Phillips.

The programming was a delight, the first half dedicated to the astounding skills of Australian/ Egyptian oud-player Joseph Tawadros, the second to a reading/performance of Delius’ Hassan with the unctuous tones of Zeb Soanes. Now, I should declare somewhat of a bias here – I’ve had tickets booked to see Tawadros on three occasions all of which were cancelled due to ‘you know what’ and then when he popped-up on the Ecotricity stage at last year’s WOMAD festival it coincided with the hottest day of 2022 and this correspondent lost the plot and had to find some aircon.

Tawadros featured as both performer and composer – two solo pieces book-ended a work commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia called Three Stages of Hindsight for string orchestra and oud. We were in an altogether different sound-world, the long-stretched variations in pitch and the Arabic maqam of the oud blending with similar effects from the strings. The performance was dynamic, engaging – Tawadros sitting cross-legged, almost cradling the instrument whilst the Britten Sinfonia stood to play, virtually dancing with the music.

Rich and varied tonal qualities of a different kind for the second half – Delius’ incidental music to Hassan, an unlikely Baghdadi hero. Joining the Britten Sinfonia was the actor/narrator Zeb Soanes. And to add even more colour, placed front-of-stage was the harp and the Britten Sinfonia voices who walked in behind the orchestra half-way through. We were transported to the Orient in spectacular fashion, Soanes playing with the sounds and shapes of the words, the harp adding an incredible sheen; and the voices, wow, the voices. We had every effect going from the placement of soloists behind the stage then in the gallery but the conclusion was spell-binding; as Hassan takes his leave of the court of Baghdad and tries his luck on the ancient Golden Road to Samarkand the entire choir turned to face the back of the stage and simply faded out across the desert…

More than a concert, this was an event.


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