Sibelius Violin Concerto

Tonbridge Philharmonic Society’s orchestral concert at St Stephen’s Church was an interesting and well-balanced programme: the first half incorporating three atmospheric works, with the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor after the interval. In Nielsen’s Helios Overture the journey of the sun from its rising over the Aegean Sea to its sinking behind the lofty mountains was captured evocatively.  

Written four years before his untimely death on the Somme in 1916, Butterworth’s attractive Orchestral Rhapsody A Shropshire Lad drew committed and passionate playing, in particular an admirable violin solo from leader Penelope Howard.

While the performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet lacked intensity, it managed to convey some of the emotion and poignancy of the narrative and ended dramatically with exciting sounds from the percussion. Throughout these three works, the orchestra seemed ill at ease, with intonation problems in the upper strings and balance between the sections. Harpist Anna Wynne’s confident and dazzling playing was a delight and lifted the performance.  

Sibelius had wished to be a concert violinist. Eventually he was not to play, but to compose a concerto for this instrument. Full of double stopping and racing arpeggios, with harmonics soaring into the stratosphere before plunging into the lower register, the work requires a virtuosic soloist. Savitri Grier fulfilled this role perfectly, her violin appearing to be an extension of herself She gave a brilliant display of exquisite tone, shining musicality and dazzling technique. In addition to many prizes, Savitri won first prize at the 2010 Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists’ Competition.

From the start Savitri’s intelligent reading of the score ensured a most satisfying experience, her expressive and charming demeanour captivating the audience. In this work the orchestra, clearly enjoying its role, provided wonderful support to the soloist, with outstanding playing in all sections. The galloping rhythms in the final movement were well caught, the wind and brass sections in their element. The standing ovation received by Savitri was well deserved. What a privilege it was to hear such playing in Tonbridge and we hope it will not be long before she returns to thrill her audience.

Sarah Gough  & Ruth Langridge