Summer concert

Saturday 25 June 2016
Christopher Irvin Browne

“The orchestra has successfully pushed the bounds of musical achievement in the region, and we should beat a path to each concert.”

The concert opened with a spellbinding performance of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres midi d’un Faune initiated by a full-toned flute solo played by Charlotte Walls. Conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges brought out the very best in this exquisite piece, with great attention to detail. The strings were finely-balanced, with some faultless horn ensemble work (a particular strength of the evening).

Riyad Nicolas, the young Syrian pianist, brought the rhythmically-charged Ravel Piano Concerto in G major vividly to life, despite a slight inequality of balance between keyboard and orchestral forces. The first movement is a rather madcap, jazzy affair with some daring trumpet blasts performed with aplomb by Lawrence Killian. This contrasts admirably with the second movement, which is a musical ‘stream of consciousness’, and is indeed one of the great achievements in music. There was deeply-felt playing with some captivatingly sensitive interplay between soloist and cor anglais. The piece finishes with a short, virtuosic display of musical fireworks! – altogether a lively conclusion to part one.

There was a bombastic start to part two with Berlioz’s Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust. The brass section was truly thrilling here, with a ground-shaking build-up of sound!

This adventurous and satisfying programme continued with the well-know Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli. Nimble strings contrasted with some glorious celli sonority. The breakneck Galop gave the woodwind some scintillating passages.

The evening was concluded by a selection from the sublime Swan Lake score by Tchaikovsky, starting with the monumental Scene, notable again for some magnificent horn playing. With the Valse, the orchestra was again on top form, showing its flexibility, panache, well-paced forward movement, and back-of-your-seat dynamics!

Tchaikovsky’s powers of orchestration are a wonder, especially apparent in the sweet tones of the orchestra’s leader, Andrew Rostron in another Scene, this time partnered by the accomplished playing of Maxine Molin-Rose (harp) and Frances Moorhouse (principal cello). The four-dance sequence that followed revealed even more dramatic ensemble work, with a stand-out solo from Lawrence – again – in the Danse Napolitaine.

The Finale was a masterstroke. This great symphonic sweep concludes the ballet, and was a fitting end to an exhilarating evening of music-making. I cannot imagine that anyone was left unmoved by the performance of this emotionally-charged music.

The orchestra has successfully pushed the bounds of musical achievement in the region, and we should beat a path to each concert when the season starts again in the autumn.