21st May 2017 - Summer Classics
The works played by the SSO in Sunday evening's concert in 'The Space' spanned only thirty-seven years, and as Darrell Davison told us there are several clear threads linking the three composers, but nevertheless it was varied fare.
Schumann's Genoveva Overture is undoubtedly the least often heard of these 'Summer Classics', but we found much to enjoy, particularly his characteristic treatment of the horns. It's a demanding start with some febrile string gestures in the slow introduction, but the tension generated adds to the romantic angst, and we soon relaxed into the main Allegro. The revealing acoustic of the Pamoja Hall makes players nervous - but it's a treat for the audience. All departments were well balanced and there was admirable warmth to the string sonority.
For most of the audience Grieg's piano concerto will have been the major draw for this concert, but for some it will have been tinged with '...not again'. This however was something special, fresh, exciting, invigorating - benefitting from a heady mix of youth and experience. Admittedly the Steinway Sophia Dee had to play on is now a very nice instrument but the sensitivity, range of colour, expressiveness, and drama she generated made for enthralling listening. We take it for granted that the young soloists Darrell finds will be technically secure - no change there, just a couple of corners where over-steer was discernible, but that's part of live music making. It was Sophia's willingness to take risks particularly with tempi that gave this performance life. The orchestra's attention to Davison's beat was fiercely concentrated [dare I say a bit more than in the Schumann?] and this produced a tightly focussed dialogue between the protagonists. This concerto is famous for the role the wind principals have throughout - again the clarity in the hall gave us a chance to hear the wise, natural, unforced musicality these players possess. A thoroughly enjoyable performance.
Dvorak's 7th symphony has a huge range of moods; from dark and brooding intensity to blazing glory, from nostalgic folk melodies to rousing march sections and all with inescapable Brahmsian flavours. The SSO rose to the challenges with spirit, for the strings almost as many demanding semiquavers as any Tchaikovsky symphony - and for all a test of stamina. They caught the atmospheres, but also made sense of the structures within - so there was seriousness of symphonic purpose but also delight in the 'Slavonic Dance' side of the composer's output. This was a very fine concert ......... what a shame that for some, the Pamoja hall [despite numerous attractions, and not just the free wine] seems to be just a bit too far out of town! The hall was well filled but it should have been packed.