A warm welcome was given to the Society’s new Music Director, Matthew Willis, conducting his first purely orchestral concert at St. Stephen’s Church. The programme was varied and cleverly chosen to maximise the use of the instruments in the scores selected. The evening commenced with the Overture The Thieving Magpie, the orchestra, ably led by Susan Skone James, setting the pace with exciting snare-drum rolls, military style, affording some excellent solo playing in brass and woodwind. A contrasting theme was introduced by the clarinet with the final theme gradually building up into a series of exciting crescendos. Fauré’s Élégie for cello and orchestra followed, the solo cello played movingly by Danny Kingshill with lovely tone and vibrato throughout in this song of lament. There was a good balance with the orchestra, the faster -paced central section leading to a hushed and very effective conclusion.
We were then taken to the grandeur of Venice. The church’s acoustics were ideal for Vivaldi’s Concerto for two Trumpets. This work written in a high register demanded some virtuosic playing. The two soloists, Alex Cromwell and Ellie Lovegrove did not disappoint, their spirited performance played on piccolo trumpets. The brilliant Allegro was followed by a contrasting short, slow passage played on the strings. The final Allegro, frequently in canon in thirds also displayed the versatility of the trumpets. Richard Walshaw’s continuo playing added authenticity to the whole.
Anatoly Liadov’s Eight Russian Folk Songs, a work possibly new to many, started with a religious song, followed by a dance-like carol with good pizzicato playing in the strings. A plaintive, melancholy cello solo followed, then a Humorous Song which danced along, the strings conveying the effect of buzzing insects! Birds contrasted with a gentle rocking Cradle Song, the whole rounded off by two spirited dances including the use of tambourine and piccolo.
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, Scottish, was probably the most demanding for the orchestra. They rose to the challenge admirably. The first movement started with a broad sweeping theme leading to a lovely melody well played by the violins, then taken up in turn by other instruments;.the Allegro had some most effective stormy music. The Vivace, challenging in its speed, contrasted with the beautiful Adagio. After fiery playing in the final Allegro, the orchestra finished with a majestic section and exciting conclusion. The applause indicated how successful the evening had been.
Finally, thank you to Les Deacon for his clear and concise programme notes.
“A fabulous and interesting programme, with playing of such high quality, that one could be forgiven in thinking that we were listening to a professional orchestra.” Jan about the Orchestral concert February 2015