REVIEW: Chichester Symphony Orchestra, Festival of Chichester concert

The CSO '“ Chichester's own symphony orchestra - impressed a full house last night at St Paul's.

Chichester Symphony Orchestra
Chichester Symphony Orchestra

For this was Chichester’s musical best!

Our very own CSO offered some glorious moments of similarity to their illustrious acronym peers in Chicago - such is the progress over the last couple of years of this wonderful part of our local cultural scene under the deft baton of Mark Hartt-Palmer.

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After a slightly hesitant start, this assured orchestra led by Lis Peskett never looked back. To open, the packed house was treated to the six, mainly rousing movements of Bizet’s beefy Carmen suite. Oboist Wendy Carpenter’s wistful mid-piece phrases heralded a finale during which many an audience lip quivered to the toreadors’ march of do do doodle oo, do do do dodoodle oo, do do doodle oo, do doodle oo etc.

There then followed for me the highlight of the evening - the quite extraordinary French horn talents of BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Ben Goldscheider in a technically challenging three movement concerto. He was accompanied quite exquisitely by the well-balanced upper and lower strings – and the warm, controlled wind section These provided by turns, the backdrop to a poignant, occasionally melancholic, then cautiously triumphant piece. Composed by a Russian -Reinhold Glière - surprisingly as late as 1950 - this piece was completely new to most of us and had very strong romantic period roots it seemed to this listener, albeit closing with Soviet style militaristic exultation in the big brassy finish. I could easily imagine this as an accompaniment, to a bunch of self-awarded medals – pinned proudly to Russian big cheeses’ lapels, at a Red Square march-past. And so genuinely satisfyingly delivered too by both soloist and orchestra, for we in the two and sixpennies.

The evening was completed by an interesting interpretation of the Tchaikovsky Symphony No 2 “Little Russian”. After another somewhat hesitant start, there were some sensitively rendered full orchestra passages despite the occasional few stuttering phrases. The second movement contained yet again another reflection of the new-found confidence of the CSO with a warm glow cast over the proceedings by the calm mid-passage – not this time from the brilliant young soloist - but from part of the CSO home-grown talent in the shape of the first desk horn. A delightful, rich sound from one who knows his instrument well.

And so, on to the finale. Here lay a sharp contrast to the previous sensitive playing. The weapons-grade brass section proclaimed the grandest ‘issimo’ of any fortissimo the rapt audience had ever heard.

That the Chichester Symphony Orchestra can attract soloists of the international standard calibre of Ben Goldscheider is a clear reflection of the orchestra’s current status. It was a true evening’s entertainment that undoubtedly deserves to attract new audiences and will easily retain its present faithful adherents. Further full houses will inevitably follow this challenging but balanced programme.

As a footnote I would like to mention and applaud Conductor Mark’s spoken words of introduction. How refreshing to hear from a man who is more familiar with the repertoire than us, offering us some further intriguing insights into what we were to hear. More please, Mark! More please CSO!

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