Concert Review: Summer 2012

by rob
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Published on: July 6, 2012
Saturday 30th June 2012
The Royal Forest of Dean Orchestra were in unfamiliar territory, musically speaking, last Saturday, exploring the complexities of late romantic European music. Two new composers entered their repertoire, Sibelius and Max Bruch, and this was a brave step into the unknown by the Orchestra under their dynamic and enterprising Musical Director Thomas Payne.
The concert was held in the great medieval Forest Cathedral at Newland, with its fine acoustics and grand setting. Sibelius started and finished the programme, with his symphonic poem ‘Finlandia’ and his Third Symphony, with Bruch’s Violin Concerto in the middle.
Finlandia was a powerful start for the evening.  It is a dramatic patriotic piece celebrating the Finnish people’s struggle to assert their identity against their great neighbours the Russians, and the orchestra captured the turbulence of the age and then the calm confidence of the new country.
Bruch’s Violin Concerto was, coincidentally, played on Classic FM earlier that day. Philippe Quint, the Russian-American virtuoso was the soloist on the radio recording, and I have to say that the performance of Elin White, the RFODO soloist who reprised the concerto in the evening was as good. Her command of the richly lyrical, powerful, sweeping, and fiendishly difficult concerto was complete, and she is yet another gifted young Gloucestershire musician to partner the orchestra.
Sibelius’ Third is not particularly known, and presents technical difficulties that may well have deterred a less confident and ambitious conductor than Thomas Payne. But it was a well chosen and well performed piece, celebrating in the romantic way the triumph of lightness over darkness, all to the accompaniment of insistent cello pizzicato. I hope that the cellists’ fingers were not completely torn to shreds.
The Orchestra’s mastery of this unfamiliar territory clearly brought them great shock and delight at the end of the performance. ‘Yes we can!’. They are approaching their 20thanniversary, and their journey from their uncertain start all those years ago to becoming an established regional orchestra has been a pleasure to observe. It’s all down to the partnership between the musical director and the orchestra. Their inspiring conductor coaxes, urges, encourages, and above all trusts the orchestra. The orchestra, led into dangerous territory, overcomes its doubts and difficulties.
It’s back to Beethoven for the next concert on 1st December, and I hope a programme of inspiring music for their anniversary year in 2013.
Dave Kent
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