Monday, 18 December 2017

Gershwin, Bernstein and a bit of Beethoven provide a mixed bag

AT the Hexagon, Reading, on Sunday, Henley Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Trusler Carroll Wass Trio and directed by Ian Brown, embarked on yet another stretching programme: Gerschwin’s Cuban Overture, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks by Richard Strauss, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C.

The Cuban Overture augured well as its dance rhythms swept us to Havana, courtesy of a brilliant percussion section from the Royal College of Music. It was an electrifying opening, punctuated by confident brass and woodwind solos.

After this, without the exuberant foot-tapping fiesta that preceded it, the content of the central part drifted along somewhat apologetically until the evocative rhythms finally surfaced again.

Unappealing to some, yet clearly popular with others, the Triple Concerto was on the back foot from the off, being one of Beethoven’s less convincing pieces. Poor acoustics did it no favours either, exacerbating an imbalance of sound between the cellist, Thomas Carroll, pianist Ashley Wass and violinist, Matthew Trusler.

While Carroll enjoyed the best of the subject matter, and attacked it with evident relish, Trusler’s contribution failed to complement it with sufficient passion and power. A move to the front of the stage would have helped audibility.

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