Behemoth Dances Reviews

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Portrait Stephen Johnson

Behemoth Dances - Performance Reviews

Richard Bratby –

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Behemoth Dances. Who dances? You know, Behemoth, the huge demonic black cat who cakewalks through Stalin’s Moscow in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita spreading mayhem and magic; the spirit – as quoted by Bulgakov, and taken by Stephen Johnson as a sort of motto for his new orchestral work – “that always wills evil, but always does good”. A sardonic fanfare announces his appearance, before the orchestra whizzes away on a bustling, bristling spree. Woodwinds squeal and skirl, the surface glitters, and a piano throws in a few deadpan comments....

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Christopher Morley – Birmingham Post

Monday, 16 May 2016

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....

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Colin Anderson –

Thursday, May 12, 2016

... Given its premiere in Moscow a few weeks ago, and with a further three performances in the UK during this tour, Behemoth Dances is a real find and opened this concert of two halves, which – using football analogies – was Leicester City in the first one, Sunderland in the second (just got away with it!)....

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David Truslove –

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

...Johnson is no newcomer to composing, but this colourful score – his first large orchestral essay – has considerable appeal. The work’s eclectic style draws on a range of British and Russian influences, (with a brief quotation from Peter and the Wolf) and is scored for a generous orchestra (including piano, saxophone and varied percussion) which is used with assurance...

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Richard Ely –

Monday, 16 May 2016

Stephen Johnson’s Behemoth Dances is a short work, whose titular character is the monstrous cat, accomplice to the evil magician Woland. Those familiar with Bulgakov’s novel will appreciate how effectively Johnson has rendered Behemoth’s sardonic character in music, with agile work from the brass section. The novel’s shifting moods and locations, from seedy Moscow magic theatre to Margarita’s broomstick flight above the city, were vividly evoked by contrasting dance and martial rhythms, mixed in with plainchant. Kogan’s assured direction ensured that it never sounded like a pot-pourri of disparate ideas and themes, coming together as a cogent whole.



Audience Feedback

quoteSJ conveys knowledge and passion in fascinating language

quoteJust heard the riveting 90 minutes of Stephen Johnson on Ravel. I'm not a pianist, but SJ made me see Ravel as a major piano technician, as an innovator, as a genius. All credit to Johnson's persuasive and utterly unpretentious manner, analytic skills, and sheer quietly infectious enthusiasm without histrionics or self-promotion. Some lovely playing too by Cedric Tiberghien of Gaspard de la Nuit in particular.

quoteMarvellous knowledge, fluency, musicianship, vocabulary, enthusiasm, generosity...

quoteSJ really knows his stuff and everything he puts together is immaculately researched and INTERESTING. Very much "Old School" Radio 3 and thank goodness he is still around...

quoteGives insight into literature as well

quoteHermes - it is funny you should say that about getting SJ presenting the Proms, because the very same thought went through my mind too. He's articulate, he knows concert protocol (no gushing interjections from him a millisecond after the conductor puts down his arms,) and umm... he isn't bad on the eyes either.


quoteMay I second the praise for Stephen Johnson, a terrific asset for R3 and an object lesson in modest and self-effacing presentation skills underpinned by a first rate understanding and love of his subject.