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Roper Theatre, Hayesfield - March 2017

A large orchestra of 72 players with their conductor Eugene Monteith, playing in the amazing new Roper Theatre at Hayesfield School.  It had the driest and least generous acoustic ever, but one which favoured the orchestra by allowing amazing clarity to all parts even where the score was richly orchestrated.  And there was plenty of that in the programme of Borodin, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

Borodin’s Overture ‘Prince Igor’ opened with a deep bass sonority that set the evening for me. Controlled, potent and full of a promise which was never once broken.  There were marvellous passages where, against a sea of swirling strings, there were exciting exchanges between woodwind and brass.  The solo horn was played with especially fine lyrical quality, and each of the two trumpets had a wondrous bite.  What a great starter for a concert.

Dvorak’s Symphonic Variations Op 78 opened with the so-called ‘impossible’ theme followed by 27 variations.  Monteith’s handling of it gave no trace of it being rhythmically or tonally out of the ordinary, and he gave each variation a very individual flavour whilst always retaining the underlying theme.  The imitative fugal finale had a splendid pace with entries that were precise and totally at one with the onward flow of the music.  Once again one could thank the hall’s acoustic for allowing us to hear them so clearly and for the individual musicianship of course.

The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly Tchaikovsky’s sixth and final symphony.  The ‘Pathétique’ – apparently wrongly translated from the Russian where instead it should have been ‘Passionate’.  And passionate it was.  There was a solid and never failing empathy between Monteith and the orchestra.  Everything was driving towards that final movement where, after the allegro molto vivace of the third movement, there is silence followed by that utterly despairing downward cry from the strings.  It was so moving.  And throughout the movement there was an extraordinary feeling of total shared commitment from within the heart of the orchestra, right up to the very finely worked pianississimo conclusion.  And then absolute silence.  Monumental and memorable.

Antony Corfe 

 

Wiltshire Music Centre - November 2016

The Bath Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Monteith presented a finely constructed programme of music remembering Shakespeare; a large orchestra filling the stage playing to a full house at the Wiltshire Music Centre.  Their website states that it is an amateur orchestra with a minimum entry requirement of Grade 8.  But their performance exhibited more than just that.

There was passion and freshness in their playing as they responded to sometimes huge demands to reveal all the emotions hidden within the music.  Without passion there’s no communication with an audience.  Here the magic worked and the audience were gradually drawn into that mystical response where performers and audience are as one in total empathy.

The programme was one of increasing interest, intensity and bravura.  Mendelssohn’s overture ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was a perfect starter, followed by a short, complex contemporary piece by Mark David-Boden.  The Fantasy Overture ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Tchaikovsky brought real drama to the stage.  Finally there was ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ of Berlioz. Totally wonderful because of the distinct mood changes between movements.  The simple dialogue between cor anglais and oboe in the third movement was beautiful.  The final movement brought a triumphant end to a marvellous evening.