String orchestra showcase was an inspiring Sunday afternoon
CONDUCTED by Philip Ellis, West Forest Sinfonia presented a wonderful programme of pieces by English composers
CONDUCTED by Philip Ellis, West Forest Sinfonia presented a wonderful programme of pieces by English composers for string orchestra in the elegant surroundings of Hardwick Hall, the Abbey School, Reading.
This was a unique opportunity for the audience to experience performances of well-known string repertoire alongside some rarely heard, though equally enjoyable, pieces by lesser known composers.
The concert began with Purcell’s Chaconne in G minor, transcribed for string orchestra by Britten. The opening grandiose theme immediately captured attention with the violins producing a fine, bright sound.
Later on there was suitably subtle dynamic shading between the parts as the piece moved into a more reflective mood towards its conclusion.
Next was Frank Bridge’s Valse Intermezzo a Cordes in E minor, a ballet-style waltz, the players producing delightful, lyrical phrasing in all parts, with the violas coming into their own with an easy, full sound in their answering melody.
Kenneth Leighton’s Suite Veri Op 9, effectively a double concertino in English pastoral style for oboe and cello with string orchestra, was beautifully played by soloists Hazel Todd, oboe, and Neil Charlton, cello.
Charlton in particular enraptured with the sweeping rhapsodic melodic lines soaring with eloquence and sweetness over the rich, well-balanced orchestral accompaniment.
After the interval came Elgar’s well-known Serenade for Strings in E minor, a relatively short piece yet delivered with high impact.
From the opening viola motif in the first movement the piece continued its forward momentum while retaining a sense of calm throughout which allowed the varied tonal contrasts and expressive contours time to be fully appreciated.
Heather Hill, composed by Constance Warren is full of sumptuous string writing, reminiscent of Delius. The orchestra here produced ravishing sounds with a particularly magical ending. In the words of conductor Philip Ellis: “What a loss we don’t hear more of Constance Warren.”
Adam Carse’s Two Sketches began in more sombre mood, reflecting the darker, undulating landscape of his northern background before moving on to the brighter, catchy folk-style passages played with vigour and energy.
To conclude, we heard Holst’s A Moorside Suite, the first movement played with a playful energy and bringing to mind the rhythms of his more famous St Paul’s Suite.
After a gentle nocturne, with leader Giles Wade playing a lovely solo, the final crisp rhythmic march displayed the technical accomplishments of the whole orchestra.
This concert was a real Sunday afternoon treat for the audience, who enjoyed some inspiring string playing.