Bath Symphony Orchestra: The Guildhall, Bath
Bath Symphony Orchestra, with John Mills
The Guildhall, Bath
When the B S O are in this form, the absence of a proper concert hall in Bath seems even more extraordinary. The Guildhall is a magnificent building, but totally inadequate acoustically for the splendid sound these players are now producing. They opened with the Brahms Tragic Overture, redolent with dark melancholy, and from the two percussive opening chords, we had a well-balanced, carefully contrasted tone, full of vivid colours. How very different from the Academic Festival Overture: and the mood was very well captured.Tchaikovsky 5 is full of familiar melodies and this performance gave us some of the best playing I've heard from the orchestra. The horns – not always their best feature – were in great form, and the lovely melody which opens the 2nd movement Andante was clear and haunting: indeed all the brass had a great evening, alongside some excellent string playing, the ensemble clean and accurate. The woodwind were as good as ever, the clarinet and oboe solos particularly persuasive. And the final movement, with its restatement of the main theme by the lower strings, was warmly confident. It was a well constructed performance and it had the controlled dramatic force which was too much this relatively restricted space. What a fine, dynamic sound – and how the audience loved it. Conductor Eugene Monteith can be very pleased with the development of the orchestra under his clear informed direction. I enjoyed John Mills reading of the Glazunov Violin Concerto – though alas the searchlight behind him prevented me seeing his playing. This is an attractive work, played through in one movement, with a substantial and taxing cadenza done with stylish virtuosity. It has life and rhythmic energy, and the band was with him all the way, as he teased out every facet of the Concerto's alternating pensive and joyful humour. A thoroughly expressive performance . A final note of farewell to leader Tim Robb, who is stepping down after a distinguished period of service. He will, though, still be playing, but hidden, he says, among the violas.
Peter Lloyd Williams
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