Academy of St Thomas

FRANK CLIFF St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


The early years of the 20th century began a reversal of the 19th-century trend for symphonic music conceived on an ever-increasing scale, and Saturday's programme reflected this with works well suited to the strengths of the Academy of St Thomas.

Respighi used harpsichord pieces of the 17th and 18th century as the basis for his suite in The Birds of 1927. It is a brilliant and colourful score and, if the performance didn't exactly sparkle, Christopher Adey ensured well-disciplined playing, especially from the winds.

Max Bruch's 1911 concerto for viola and clarinet is a work which has only recently resurfaced after years of neglect.

Violist Philip Dukes and clarinettist Robert Plane were the excellent soloists, whose playing, particularly of the lovely middle movement, provided ample justification for the work's revival.

The two works in the second half witnessed the most polished playing from the orchestra. In Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, the only 19th-century work in the programme, the strings, by virtue of the scoring, were not so disadvantaged by the unflattering acoustic of St Andrew's Hall and showed how sensitively they can perform. In this and in the final work, Ravel's Mother Goose suite, Adey, with scrupulous attention to every subtle nuance of the score, coaxed excellent playing from this fine band.

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