THEY say playing music is all about keeping time, and the wonder of a great virtuoso is their mastery of playing rubato, teasing and pulling the time to make the notes really sing and thus heighten the emotional intensity.
This is what was most noticeable about soloist Colin Carr’s rendition of Elgar’s Concerto For Cello And Orchestra in E Minor at Sunday night’s concert at the Hexagon. I always wonder whether great cellists, no matter how famous or accomplished, hesitate to play this most renowned of pieces in the English classical canon. After all, they must fear they will always be held up against Jacqueline du Pré. But the fact is du Pré died in 1987 and all we have left are recordings. No matter how brilliant she was, no recording can compare (in my opinion) with a brilliantly executed live performance.
Carr — a world-renowned musician from Nettlebed — is a passionate player. Even a deaf man could tell this from the way his body is at one with his cello, swaying and dipping so that when the music reaches its sweet crescendos and descends to its rumbling bass notes he is moving with it, and it becomes difficult to distinguish man from instrument. He doesn’t play with his hands; he plays with his heart. And as a master of rubato, he toys with the audience, manipulates the audience; when the music soars to an elegant, heart-wrenching crescendo he is able to hold us there for just an inkling of a second longer than was written in the score, heightening the pathos almost to breaking point.
This was a masterful and emotional rendition. After the famous adagio opening, the Henley Symphony Orchestra showed great skill in the answer-and-call moderato section of the first movement. And then we were sold, so that the rest was over far too quickly.
Brahms’ Symphony No 2 in D followed, and it was heart-warming to see that Colin Carr had snuck in to play in the back row of the cellists, joining his 14-year-old son Frankie and his wife, Caroline, on violin. He is evidently a great musician but without the usual accompanying ego.
HSO is an orchestra of amateur players but this concert showed them to be accomplished and a joy to listen to. That a small town like Henley can produce an orchestra of this calibre is something for us all to be proud of. Their next concert is at The Henley College on May 9 and their annual summer extravaganza is at Shiplake College in June.
www.henleysymphonyorchestra.co.uk for more details.