Britten Sinfonia

MICHAEL DRAKE St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


> St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

This was an evening of rhythm par excellence, starting with the introspection of the Britten Prelude Fugue where the dozen-and-a-half sighing strings came straight from waving Suffolk reeds, under graceful conducting from James MacMillan.

Then to the centrepiece and with the Sinfonia (guest leader Prya Mitchell) increased by half, MacMillan's own Second Piano Concerto. Here was rhythm in abundance in the opening with its delightful cameo 'folksy' sections. With an effervescent soloist in Joanna MacGregor, this was always a dancing delight. Not spiritual but exciting as a seemingly conventional waltz was overtaken by overlapping strings until the work developed its own percussive character before moving to a repetitive jig from the violins, answered back by piano.

There was so much going on it was difficult to assess the whole picture on first hearing and, although I remain to be convinced of the thunderous climax, suffice it to say it was a work full of excitement outstandingly executed. After the gentility of Arvo Part's Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten, Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste had a mysterious quality with inexorable building of tension in another piece notable for its rhythmic qualities.