Bath Mozartfest: English Chamber Orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra
Delightfully subtle programming followed Tuesday's London Winds, with its remarkable transcription of Beethoven 7th, without a string instrument in sight – regretted by some listeners – to the strings of the English Chamber Orchestra, directed from the first violin desk by Stephanie Gonley.
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And they were in prime form too, starting with the Mendelssohn String Symphony No 6, written when he was just twelve. From the sprightly opening Allegro, through an alternately paced Menuet and Trio, it hurtles to a hectic Finale, laced with intricate counterpoint. A splendidly cheerful opener.
And the Dvorak String Serenade which closed the programme, with its familiar melodies, is also full of rich harmonies, contrasting the gentle Larghetto with the quick-fire Scherzo and an Allegro Vivace finale, which catapulted the piece to a storming climax. A real feast for the string players, wonderfully well played.
And we had Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto, given a most animated and vivacious outing, with Stephanie Gonley playing the solo part. It has the grace and lightness of touch Mozart does so well – he probably played the solo himself – and this performance had a beautifully contrasting opening Allegro, followed by the serene Andante Cantabile, before a final bouncy, rather mischievous Rondeau. A really passionate performance, combining immaculate technique with innate musicality. And a couple of horns and oboes crept into the backrow, to add a different colour to the orchestral texture.
Not to be outdone, we had Richard Watkins playing Flanders and Swann's – sorry Mozart's 4th Horn Concerto on a modern valved instrument. It had all the fun we associate with this very familiar piece: and he made a first class job of it – with just two very minor blips which clearly irritated him. But the audience loved it – why wouldn't we? It's a great piece.
Peter Lloyd Williams