ELGAR’s Falstaff Symphonic Study, Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 formed the programme for Henley
ELGAR’s Falstaff Symphonic Study, Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 formed the programme for Henley Symphony Orchestra’s first visit to Reading Concert Hall.
In Falstaff, departing from his accustomed compositional style, Elgar introduces a level of complexity that makes it more “modern” and less accessible, but it is nevertheless brilliantly orchestrated. The HSO, under Ian Brown, did it full justice, overcoming many challenges, especially in the opening movement. Here the cellos, and principal Alison Wagland’s solos, were outstanding.
The serene second movement offered some respite, its central solo violin theme performed exquisitely by leader David Burton. A lively, string-dominated third movement shook things up again, while the fourth introduced impactful tuba and trombone writing, more cello solos and recapitulations of the main subjects.
Weber’s contrasting clarinet concerto was masterfully dispatched by the already established young clarinettist, Julian Bliss. His tone was supreme and his staccato articulation and fast runs effortless. He also showed in the slow movement that virtuoso pyrotechnics could give way to extreme sensitivity.
The overall rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 was tight and relentless. The allegretto might arguably have started slower, allowing time for intensity to grow, but was beautifully played. The last movement’s traditional cracking pace lost some upper-string detail as the bars hurtled past like telegraph poles viewed from a bullet train, but the resulting power and momentum were sufficient justification for the audience’s enthusiastic response.
The orchestra’s next event is their Christmas concert at the Christ Church Centre on December 15. Visit www.henleysymphonyorchestra.co.uk