Britten Sinfonia

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


The enthusiastic followers of the Britten Sinfonia crowded into St Andrew's Hall for a concert of 18th century German music. Some of it was particularly well known, but there was also less familiar works to whet the appetite.

Played with verve and, no less important, great clarity that revealed the ever changing textures, the Third Brandenburg Concerto was a fine choice for the start. Then came a Concerto in C minor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, one of JSB's many sons, and, in his day, rated higher than his father.

The soloist was the engaging Carole Cerasi. She performed on a fortepiano, and unfortunately difficulties arose with balance. In solo passages her neat articulation could be heard perfectly clearly, and her delicate variations in volume were elegant. But when the dozen strings came in, she seemed to become only the junior partner when she always deserved at least an equal role.

In a Flute Concerto, also by Carl Phillipp Emanuel, Kate Hill was more successful in maintaining her rightful status in the ensemble. The consequence was a more rewarding experience.

The middle movement, a muted Largo, was especially moving with its restrained melancholy. Though presented with a ready response to different moods, Telemann's Don Quixotte suite seemed shallow by comparison and a weak response to its rich theme. The Mocking of Sancho Panza was the most vivid of the cameos.

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Back to JS Bach for the finale: Pauline Lowbury, who had led and tactfully directed the Sinfonia throughout, joined the other soloists in his Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord. It was just what was wanted.

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