REVIEW: Elder conducts the Britten Sinfonia at Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich Theatre Royal.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Theatre Royal.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The Britten Sinfonia returned to Norwich on Saturday night for the second in the orchestra's current trio of planned performances in the city.

Conducted by Sir Mark Elder, the evening opened with Benjamin Britten's Suite on English Folk Tunes: A Time There Was, Op 90.

Written later in the composer's life when he was recovering from a heart operation the suite draws on the British countryside, birdsong and traditional folk melodies for inspiration.

But it is no means quaint, moving from moments of real drama to calmer and softer lulls the suite contained numerous snatches of recognisable folk melodies. The most obvious being in the final part where the tune of Lord Melbourne broke free and formed the centrepiece of the movement.

The second performance of the evening saw the orchestra joined on stage by Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy.

Accompanying the orchestra for Gustav Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Murrihy blew the audience away with her rich vocals and pitch perfect rendition of the melancholic love songs.

The evening finished with Johannes Brahms' second symphony, introduced by Sir Elder, the conductor told the audience to listen out for the violins played in the style of Beethoven and the well-known finale of the symphony.

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My favourite piece of the evening the orchestra were on top form, perfectly synchronised and clearly enjoying playing the piece before them.

Moving from the softer start of the symphony, which contained hints of birdsong and suggestions of an idyllic countryside scene to occasional moments of drama and peril. The music repeatedly ebbed and flowed throughout the symphony until the final movement when, led by Jacqueline Shave playing principle violin, the strings surged to an amazing finale and were practically dancing on the stage.

It was fantastic to see and hear an orchestra so in synch with one another give such a brilliant performance.

The Britten Sinfonia will return to Norwich on Saturday May 25, to perform Beethoven's Symphony No.9 in St. Andrew's Hall.