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The Guildhall, Bath : 21 November 2008
Weber's Euryanthe Overture took us off to a rousing start, with resonant brass and busy strings, leading into a lyrical violin theme and a striking finale of power and brilliance.
Then the Elgar Cello Concerto played by Elizabeth Anderson, with a lovely sonorous opening, capturing the pathos which infuses the whole work.
The mood lightens a little in the scherzo before a note of melancholy returns with the adagio.
Then the final allegro , bravely buoyant this was a fine performance which captured the essence and complexity of the work, and showed us a different, less physical aspect than, for example, Jacqueline du Pre, whose rendering still casts a long shadow. This had a more intimate sympathetic immediacy which was very appealing.
After the interval, Brahms' first Symphony, some 14 years in gestation, before its first performance, after a long of prompting from Clara Schumann and the violinist Joachim, among others.
Composed on the grand scale, it was an ambitious choice with a splendid bravura opening and a great climax, separated by a serene andante and a cheerful perky third movement grazioso.
There was some good string playing alongside the astringency of the woodwind: and the final build-up, with its familiar theme, gave the horns a chance to show their paces in a balanced, well-paced reading, that had the right combination of drama and composure under conductor David Price.
Peter Lloyd Williams
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"Music was the food of love" - 21 February 2008
Bath Symphony Orchestra The Forum, Bath Of course, a concert on St Valentine's Day must speak of love.
And this one did, starting with the young Tchaikovsky's Fantasy-Overture: Romeo and Juliet. It is a search for love and happiness, alas very hard to discover, as the plangent oboe melody so vividly portrays.
This performance grew in intensity with some smooth silky string playing, bitter-sweet as it reached its tragic finale.
Poulenc's Ballet Suite: Les Biches, was quite different, full of quirky rhythms and a sensuous quality which is richly piquant. The trumpets were in tremendous form and the effect was full of life and sparkle: a piece full of mischievous fun.
Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is a serious challenge for any band. It has, though, something for each section, ranging from turbulent passion to lovely pastoral melody - oboe and cor anglais conversing across the meadow.
The final march to the scaffold is full of martial menace and growling brass, as heads roll.
This was an excellent performance which captured the essence of Berlioz's own tempestuous love-life, given added interest by conductor David Price's amusing and informative commentary, bringing smiles even from the players - a rare sight.
It made a splendidly colourful climax for St Valentine's Day.
Peter Lloyd Williams