Review: Chichester Symphony Orchestra “can be justly proud of their achievements”

Chichester Symphony Orchestra (pic by Jim Wakefield)Chichester Symphony Orchestra (pic by Jim Wakefield)
Chichester Symphony Orchestra (pic by Jim Wakefield)
Review by Philip Wake: Chichester Symphony Orchestra, Summer Concert – Festival of Chichester, St. Paul’s Church, Chichester

Each year the Chichester Symphony Orchestra performs its Summer Concert at St. Paul’s Church as part of the Festival of Chichester. The festival’s marketing helps to encourage a large audience despite the multiple events offered through the month and on the same day. This year’s was below pre-pandemic levels but it was encouraging to see a number of families with children attending.

The concert opened with the Academic Festival Overture Op. 80 by Brahms. As the well-researched and interesting programme notes informed us, the piece was written in response to an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Breslau University and is a depiction of student life. The quiet, mysterious opening was carefully delivered by the orchestra before confidently building to the grander symphonic passages with rousing crescendos. At its first performance the academic community were apparently taken aback by the frivolity of some of the overture but we were appreciative of the orchestra’s lively representation of the variety of student life.

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The Bruch Violin Concerto in G Minor Op. 26 has often topped Classic FM’s chart of 300 most popular pieces so was eagerly awaited by the audience here. The soloist was Catherine Lawlor who was the previous Leader of the orchestra and the rapport that she still has with the players and conductor, Simon Wilkins, was immediately apparent. Soloist and orchestra did full justice to the contrasting movements with the soloist involved from the outset. The Adagio is described as the soul of the work and was played with the necessary lyrical beauty by Catherine, particularly well supported in these quiet passages by the cellos and basses. Her style of playing is quietly authoritative rather than flamboyant as she and her instrument are at one, taking the audience and indeed orchestra with her deeply into the music. The Finale, Allegro energico, was indeed energetically played with soloist and orchestra clearly enjoying themselves and fully deserving the rapturous applause that greeted this sparkling performance.

The concert concluded with Brahms’ engaging Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op.73 written in just four months during a summer holiday in contrast to his First Symphony which took some 20 years of toil. Overall, it is a sunny-natured symphony and yet has some melancholic passages, particularly well delivered by the French Horn solo and lyrical cello theme. The brass section clearly enjoyed their various opportunities to give their all and the trombones rose to their feet to deliver the final chord of the rousing conclusion.

This was a concert worthy of the Festival of Chichester, well programmed and clearly carefully rehearsed, which was hugely enjoyed by the audience. The orchestra, soloist and conductor can be justly proud of their achievements and we can look forward to their next offering – the always popular lunchtime concert in Chichester Cathedral on 24th October.

Philip Wake

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