After a very Mozartian start to Cherubini’s Overture Anacréon, the Allegro found the Tonbridge Philharmonic Orchestra in dashing mood. From the quiet ‘cello start to the dramatic wind crescendi under the baton of Matthew Willis, this was a well-shaped performance.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22 featured young TWIYCA winner soloist Marina Koka. With this piece the orchestra seemed to find more assurance. Richard Dain’s piano was well suited for the acoustic of the Chapel, with clarity throughout the range. Willis set a ceremonial mood with fanfares and trumpet-and-drums heroics, and skilfully brought out the wind band sonorities of the work.
Miss Koka’s effortless technique took us on a journey through the key themes of the movement in her cadenza. A gorgeous Andante saw Willis draw out intimate interplay between his players, and between piano soloist and orchestra. The final Allegro returned to the hunting music, interrupted by a minuet and wistful echoes of the Andante, with more glorious writing for the winds, which the orchestra brought out beautifully. Miss Koka’s playing was warmly received by the audience, who were rewarded with a lyrical encore of Elgar’s Salut d’Amour.
The combined forces of the TPS Orchestra and Choir featured in the Requiem. Here Willis’ vision of the work was both grand in scale and intention, yet still remarkably personal and individual. The Tonbridge Philharmonic Choir was in excellent voice. After a portentous Requiem aeternam, Sofia Troncoso’s Te decet hymnus was lyrical and the music moved up a pace or two. Willis’ singers were well focused and shaped their phrases well. After a dramatic pause, the basses led the Kyrie with an incisive definition and there was no woolliness you find in some quarters of the choral world.
The Dies Irae continued with brisk urgency, the choir again showing good ensemble, diction and power. After the wonderful interplay between Tristan Hambleton’s rich bass and Neil Jones’s trombone solo in Tuba Mirum, Hannah Pedley’s lyrical mezzo and Andrew Bain’s heroic tenor finally joined the ensemble. Willis brought out all of Mozart’s lyrical appoggiature, with the strings in fine form led by Susan Skone James.
The weighty Rex Tremendae saw fantastic contrasts between the well-articulated King of Majesty, and the tender and pure Salva me beautifully spun by the upper voices. Willis encouraged his male forces to attack the Confutatis with another movement of great contrast of tone and dynamics. The thrilling ppp singing particularly from the sopranos at Gere curam and the tortured chromatic harmonies was incredibly effective, not least as a shift in mood to the Lacrimosa. The weeping figure in the strings was amply matched by the choir at a broad tempo with Willis finding new details in the writing. The fugal sections of Domine Jesu and Hostias were dramatically articulated, and the dynamic contrasts were a real coup de théâtre.
In Willis’ grand vision, the Sanctus and Benedictus assumed a more positive tone before the achingly beautiful singing for the Dona eis requiem. This led on to a real choral tour de force in the concluding fugue at a brisk Allegro, with some thrilling trombone playing colla voce. A dramatic pause before the final syllable of the work was followed by the open 5th chord of almost visceral force tutta forza brought to a stunning, very personal and interesting account of this familiar work to a close.
“Mostly Mozart what a fantastic eventful evening . Orchestra, Choir, Marina Koka breathtaking performance Piano Concerto no. 22. Fantastic night all put together by conductor Matthew Willis . More soon please.” Facebook review about concert March 2017 from Deny de Ambrosi