Powerful chords kicked off an enthralling concert (January 12) as a brief martial atmosphere introduced Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture, but soon its attractive melody was captured elegantly by the strings, decorated by flute and oboe.
The spirit and angst of the troubled soldier Coriolanus was well captured, including beautifully “whispered” last chords that conjured his last breaths.
For even the best musicians the Brahms Violin concerto is a huge challenge with demanding rhythm changes. The fiercely-concentrating Alexander Sitkovetsky met it with confidence and empathy for the composer’s intentions.
Quicksilver strings set him up for a long sparkling arpeggio in the first movement. After a beguiling opening oboe he effortlessly took up the melody of the second movement, infusing passion as well as introspection, finishing with grace after a pacey opening to the third movement that showed him at his most deft.
Dvorak’s hugely engaging Symphony Number 9 needed no introduction, especially to lovers of Hovis bread. The orchestra demonstrated vividly as early as the first movement that there is more heart to this piece than the haunting largo of the well-loved second movement.
All the folksy whimsy and powerful drama of the first movement was captured with some emphatic brass and lovely oboe and flute.
For the largo, the doomy brass fell silent for Max Spiers to breathe new life into that languid melody with beautiful cor anglaise playing. Some playful flute and clarinet kept things lively and the odd blast of brass broke the peace.
Conductor Jamie Phillips opened the third movement briskly, helped by some positive timpani and some charming chirps from oboe and flute. This was the orchestra’s finest moment.
Assertive brass ringing out boldly at the start of the fourth movement and wistful woodwind encapsulated the entertaining contrasts in the composer’s score. Dvorak’s scintillating score never had a dull moment in the hands of this fine orchestra.
Start 2019 with a dry-ish January. Click here to read the wine column.