Tuesday 21 October 2008

On Saturday we went to see the ENO production of Handel's Partenope and a review of that will appear in due course.

Owing to work surrounding the publicising my new volume of motets from Tempus per Annum and the start of the London Film Festival (5 films so far), one or two things have fallen through the cracks; for which apologies.

The most important item to escape posting was the Salomon Orchestra's concert last Tuesday, 14th October 2008, at St. Johns Smith Square. Nicholas Collon (Principal Conductor of the Aurora Orchestra) conducted the orchestra in a challenging programme of Shostakovich's Festival Overture, Richard Strauss's Oboe Concerto with oboist Tamas Balla, and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

It was a bold programme, moving from the bright large scale Shostakovich, with off stage brass band at the end, through Strauss's chamber scale concerto to the mammoth forces of the Stravinsky.

Tamas Balla played superbly in the Strauss. His breath control was phenomenal, giving him a wonderful evenness and mellifluousness of tone. It was a performance which led you to wonder why on earth the oboe did not feature more often in Romantic concertos. He was ably supported by the reduced size orchestra with the various wind instruments, notably the cor anglais, providing some lovely solo moments in dialogue with the soloist.

But inevitably, what everyone was waiting for was the Stravinsky. On a packed stage the orchestra gave a truly committed and forthright performance; rarely have I heard such loud playing in St. Johns. But The Rite of Spring is not really about large, noisy gestures. It is full of small, awkward moments; in fact part of the work's amazing power is the way that Stravinsky builds up his music from a myriad of smaller gestures. The devil is in the detail and much of the detail was spot on here. No, the performance was not quite perfect, but it was pretty stunning and full of lovely moments. Conductor Nicholas Collon not only kept a close eye on detail but ensured that the larger paragraphs were well constructed so that the work seemed natural and inevitable. The performance seemed to fly by and one really longed to hear it all again.

Their next concert is on March 3rd when the programme will include Britten's Violin Concerto, Dvorak's Othello and Martinu's 6th Symphony. Put the date in your diaries now.

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