The Tonbridge Philharmonic Orchestra was in fine form in a programme of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. It settled into the warm and yet crystal-clear acoustic of the Baptist church giving the listener a treat. The standard lamps at the back of the platform suggested something of a chamber music evening, and much of the playing, particularly from the wind group was in that vein.
The large audience was treated to Mozart’s bubbling and youthful overture to “Cosi Fan Tutte” (That’s what they all do) to set the tone, with a sonorous slow introduction and felicitous Allegro. Director Robin Morrish’s clear and animated direction was reflected in the obvious commitment from his players.
This new venue for the orchestra proved to be very successful. Without the aural cloud that sometimes surrounds the orchestra at other venues, the TPO was revealed to be a precise and flexible instrument. With this programme, the audience was treated to a alth of detail. The odd imperfection in ensemble was more than compensated for by the clarity of the part writing.
The next item was the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, with Gillian Ripley as soloist. Ripley, who started with a local doyenne of the violin, went to school in Tonbridge, made her way from Kent Youth Orchestras to university and the world beyond, and was in full command of the piece. It would be easy to write of a “local lass returns in triumph” but on this evening, it was true!
The soloist is launched at us after only a few chords, and Ripley’s playing took flight. Her sustained playing brought out the lyrical nature of the piece. The cadenza was carefully drawn with a moving intensity. The second subject was relished by the woodwind. There was more poetic and meditative playing in the Andante. Ripley’s singing tone and subtle rubato was effortless. The TPO was a subtle and flexible accompanist.
The tricky last movement was exciting, with Ripley’s musical gymnastics being matched by an orchestra on their toes and on their metal. Morrish kept his players alert to Ripley’s subtle changes of speed, and with only one or two bumps along the way, the piece concluded with an exciting flourish. The burst of applause and shouts of “Bravo” was well deserved by everyone.
The final work was Beethoven’s 8th Symphony in F. Here the TPO had their chance to let down their hair. The rhythmic intensity of Beethoven was clearly drawn by Morrish and his players. Much of the music was wittily played with exaggerated dynamics and accents. The motivic writing clear and precisely played.
The second movement, with its clock-like ideas was suitably paced. The clarity of the sound made it easy to pick up the details in the score. The Minuet and Trio from the 18th Century was perhaps a little too straight-laced, but Morrish worked hard to bring out the individual lines and flexibilities of rhythm.
The Finale was very enjoyable. The Orchestra seemed to relax and the music making was particularly notable in this movement. The TPO highlighted the abrupt dynamic and key changes and the seemingly serious second subject again gave way to more humorous playing. The evening finished with an uplifting flourish.